Kinoshita : Thank you for coming Shota. I'm very glad to see you. Please ask me anything you would like to know.

Shota : Well then. What does the sogo-shosha Mitsui & Co. do?

Kinoshita : That is a direct question. I can't answer that question in a few words, so let me start with the "Mission" statement that Mitsui & Co. set down.

Shota : "Mission" means a purpose that you have to achieve, doesn't it?

Kinoshita : That's right. Our "Mission" is to "Strive to contribute to the creation of a future where the aspirations of the people can be fulfilled." In order to accomplish this "Mission," we aim to become a "global business enabler" that can meet the needs of our customers and partners throughout the world.

Shota : What is a "global business enabler"? Wait, I see, I got it! Mitsui & Co. is a sogo-shosha, so it means that the company works all around the world.

Kinoshita : We are not just global, but Mitsui & Co. has a long history, too. The former Mitsui & Co. was built 136 years ago in 1876.

Shota : 136 years ago? I wasn't even born, or my father or mother.

Kinoshita : Earlier than that. It was long before your grandfathers and grandmothers were born. Japan at that time was experiencing the change from the Edo to the Meiji Era: It was after the period of national isolation and Japan was trying to absorb different cultures from overseas. I suppose you have learned about this at your school.

Shota : Meiji Restoration or something like that?

Kinoshita : That's right. At that time, Japan was trying to enter the international market under the new administration of the Meiji government to participate in import and export, that is to say "trade." This is when the former Mitsui & Co. was founded.

Shota : Why was the former Mitsui & Co. founded in such an era?

Kinoshita : At that time, European and American traders had the upper hand in trade with Japan, and deals were often made to the disadvantage of Japan. Takashi Masuda, who was 27 years old then, became the first president of the former Mitsui & Co., which was a venture company with 16 employees. He hoped to shift the balance of power in trade into the hands of the Japanese people.

Shota : Was the first president of former Mitsui & Co. 27 years old? And did the company only have 16 employees?

Kinoshita : Yes. Takashi Masuda's mission was "to build Japan into an industrial and trading nation that would rank alongside the Western powers." Controlling its own trade was an important step towards the development of the Japanese nation, and the former Mitsui & Co. was established to accomplish this mission.

Shota : Wow, interesting! Today, we can buy goods from overseas using the Internet. But I guess things were different and more difficult back then. Living in modern Japan, I can't believe that Japan had gone through such times.

Kinoshita : Japan has changed a lot in 130 years. Since its foundation, Mitsui & Co. has been doing "Yoi-Shigoto (good quality work)" to meet society's needs. Mitsui & Co. serves society through adapting to the changes of the times, unlocking the future and innovating business concepts for the development of Japan and the world.

Shota : What does it mean to meet society's needs, or serve society? Does it mean that the company does something for the future of the earth?

Kinoshita : Yes. Business that benefits future generations is very important.

Shota : I see! An environmentally-friendly business is an example of that.

Kinoshita : That's right. For example, using its strength, Mitsui & Co. develops the total recycling business globally, contributing to the protection of the earth's precious resources. Another example of environmental business is the CSP (concentrating solar power) plant construction project, which contributes to the prevention of global warming. Mitsui & Co.'s expertise and experience were quite useful for this project, in processes such as financing, introducing the latest technology, and coordinating with the government.

Shota : It is easy to see how environment-related projects, like CSP and total recycling, are useful for society. Could you tell me about some other projects in which Mitsui & Co. is serving society?

Kinoshita : When we support a business project, we make sure we are contributing to the development of that country or region's future and enriched life style. Prompt development of infrastructure is needed in emerging countries. For example, the Japanese people may take it for granted, but a safe and secure supply of drinking water is not something you can achieve easily.

Shota : I know! I learned about it in the report on water supply facilities in Thailand. Isn't the subway project in Brazil also an infrastructure project?

Kinoshita : Yes it is. The scale of infrastructure development projects, such as lifeline and transportation facilities, is large. Financing and a logistic system for resource transportation are required in addition to technologies and know-how. For example, over a long period of time, Mitsui & Co. has reliably provided energy to Japan, a country that does not have many natural resources.

Shota : You are talking about the Sakhalin II project, right? I've read that for over 20 years, Mitsui & Co. has participated in this challenging project in the extreme cold, when Russia was still the Soviet Union and through the changes in its government and partner companies.

Kinoshita : Infrastructure and resource development is not the only work that is required for emerging countries. For example, development of hospitals is also an essential job to maintain the health of people living in countries where high population growth is expected and there will be need of advanced medical treatment.

Shota : Are you talking about the healthcare service business in countries like Singapore, Malaysia and India?

Kinoshita : Yes. However, healthcare service is a highly public business, so negotiation with the country's government is vital. Such projects require special knowledge, which we have accumulated from our past achievements. As a result, projects of this nature are rapidly increasing for Mitsui & Co. These projects contribute to prosperity and safety in emerging countries and regions.

Shota : It's not limited to emerging countries, is it? I mean, you had to overcome various legal issues in the total recycling business in Japan. Also, I learned that LNG ships for transportation of resources between countries can be built with the help of the sogo-shosha's marketing capabilities.

Kinoshita : Certainly, there also are projects that require Mitsui & Co.'s comprehensive capabilities in developed countries such as Japan, the U.S. and European countries.

Shota : Regardless of the country's economic status, it is important to help people's lives throughout the world.

Kinoshita : In order to promote future-oriented projects, we aim to become a "global business enabler" that can meet the needs of our customers and partners throughout the world as I said earlier. This is Mitsui & Co.'s "Vision."

Shota : I know one of the keys for Mitsui & Co. to become a "global business enabler." It's a "value chain!"

Kinoshita : Yes, you are right.

*Legally speaking, there has been no continuation between the former Mitsui & Co. and the current Mitsui & Co.

*Job titles as of April 2012

©2011-2012 Nikkei Business Publications, Inc. Nikkei Business Online Special, Translated by Mitsui & Co., Ltd.

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