Table Speech

Initiation Speech

June 09, 2010

Mr. Akira Kokubu
Mr. Keiichi Toyokawa

Initiation Speech

Mr. Akira Kokubu
Executive Senior Managing Director, Kokubu & Co., Ltd.

Wholesaler of Liquor and Food Products

 Kokubu was founded in 1712, and this year commemorates our 298th anniversary. As a wholesaler of liquor and food products, we purchase 540,000 items from 9,700 manufacturers and distribute them to about 40,000 account clients from our 190 distribution centers, generating consolidated sales of 1.4273 trillion yen. One convenient store, for example, handles an assortment of about 3,000 items, so I am sure this comparison gives you a clearer picture of the massive volume of items handled by wholesalers.

I Function of Liquor and Food Wholesalers in Japan
The distinctive function of wholesalers in Japan is closely related with our eating habits. Japanese consumers tend to purchase large amounts of fresh products, particularly seasonal food, leading to frequent shopping. Food culture varies widely from region to region, because the Japanese archipelago stretches from north to south, with the central mountain range dividing Japan into 2 districts causing distinctive climate variations. The ratio of home cooking is very high, with a wide variety of Japanese, Western, Chinese and Italian dishes.

 These unique characteristics formulated the logistics structure over many years in Japan, manifest in the large number of retailers. Data indicates there are about 30 retailers per 10,000 people in Japan, which is 4 times more than in the US, or 1.5 to 3 times more than in European countries. There are also many manufacturers. The number of small and medium manufacturers with less than 299 employees account for 98% of the whole, making them the major players supporting Japanese diet today.

 Wholesalers have undertaken various functions of promoting intensive trading, disseminating product information, developing products, system management, supporting clients, as well as financial functions. Today, as part of the local revitalization policies implemented by the government, collaboration among agriculture, commerce and industry is being promoted. We, the wholesalers, are expected to play the social role of identifying products from smaller manufacturers in local areas and fostering them.

II Current Trend in the Distribution Industry
 The market size of food products in Japan is said to be 75 trillion yen on the retail base, 39 trillion yen on the wholesale base, and 23 trillion yen on the production base. General trading companies, foreign capitals, and even investment funds are entering this 75 trillion yen market. Major food wholesalers with top sales are mostly linked with trading companies, making Kokubu the few exceptions. General trading companies are handling material procurement. In order to secure its stable outlet, they have organized a group of affiliated companies.

 Since last year, general medical and pharmaceutical products became available at wider retail channels, as part of the measures to promote self-medication to solve the desperate national medical finance. Wholesalers must work in collaboration and supply wide variety of products, ranging from prescription and nonprescription drugs, to food products.

 Before closing, let me touch upon expanding our scope to overseas operations, especially in rapidly growing East Asian countries, such as China, by utilizing the unique merchandising, logistics and information expertise accumulated in our long history. The food distribution industry is now operating in the environment of aging society with declining birth rate. In the long run, the domestic market will shrink, so how to come up with a growth strategy is our big challenge.

Initiation Speech

Mr. Keiichi Toyokawa
Chairman of the Board, Nitobe Bunka Gakuen

Educator Inazo Nitobe

 ”An extraordinary cosmopolitan, yet an exceptional patriot.” This is how I describe Professor Inazo Nitobe, who was the first principal of “Nitobe Bunka Gakuen School,” of which I became a chairman 4 years ago. Yet, I have a difficulty in describing his extraordinary career. He held many academic degrees and PhDs in various fields, making him a “scholar” for sure. He was also an author of many publications, including “Bushido: The Soul of Japan.”
Dr. Nitobe also showed his talent as a businessman by developing the sugar industry in Taiwan. After World War I, Dr. Nitobe became the first Under-Secretary General for the League of Nations as a diplomat. He was then elected to the House of Peers in the Japanese Imperial Parliament, becoming a statesman.

 The true nature of such a multi-talented Dr. Nitobe, however, was as an “educator.”

 Inazo was born in Morioka in 1862, 6 years before the Meiji Restoration. He left for Tokyo when he was 10. He studied English at “Tokyo University of Foreign Studies.” He was then admitted to the Sapporo Agricultural College and mastered perfect English, where Dr. Clark was the first vice-principal.

 He then decided to study abroad at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, financed by his uncle’s meager savings. His experience studying under harsh economic conditions made him deal with “education for youth in economic hardships” throughout his life. At Johns Hopkins, Inazo met his wife Emily Elkinton from a wealthy family in Philadelphia and became a “pioneer in female education.”

 Nitobe became Professor at Sapporo Agricultural College, upon his return, and devoted himself to educator training and social education. He established the evening school to give working youth a chance to study.

 Nitobe fell sick from nervous exhaustion and went to Monterey, California, for rest and recuperation, where he wrote his “Bushido; the Soul of Japan.” It is well-known that President Theodore Roosevelt read the “Bushido” and worked hard to bring the Russo-Japanese War to a close.

 Nitobe became a professor at Kyoto University where he lectured on idealism and colonization through humanitarianism. He also served as principals of various schools including Tokyo Women’s Christian University and inspired many talented students. He also called for the necessity of educating female students to promote their economic independence by teaching them about the consumer economy, and became the first principal of “Woman’s Economic College” which became “Nitobe Bunka Gakuen School” today. He was the principal until he died while staying in Canada in 1933.

 I must confess that I only came to learn about Dr. Nitobe when his portrait was printed on the 5000-yen banknote, along with Yukichi Fukuzawa and Souseki Natsume. As I came to learn about this great man of culture, I realized the reason why he was erased from history for 10 years before and after the end of the war. It was exactly because he was an “extraordinary cosmopolitan, yet an exceptional patriot.” He was excluded by the war-time military authorities as a pacifist, then ignored by intellectuals as an agent of imperialism after the war because he lectured on colonialism. I wonder how Professor Nitobe observes all of these praises and blames in the past 80 years from above in heaven.