Tuesday 31 May 2011

Company seals

Hi folks,

First the tsunami, today a typhoon. What a bloody country. Heavy rain and gales this morning. But after scare stories that the nuclear plant was not ready for a typhoon (the buildings not yet covered), so far it seems to have weathered the storm.

Journalist on television yesterday talking about 3.11 (san-ten-ichi-ichi). Echoes of 9.11. Strange, as the most common way to say 9.11 in Japanese has no mention of numbers: doji tahatsu tero jiken 同時多発テロ事件 literally,  'simultaneous multi terrorist incident'). But the comparison is real enough. The earthquake, tsunami and nuclear accident were indeed Japan's 9.11.

Nearer to home, today must go down as a red letter day in the annals of the Kaneko family. After 23 years as shacho (CEO) of Tohoku Kogyo, the family packaging business inherited from my husband  in 1989, I have been bumped upstairs to an honorary position (kaicho) and a man from Rengo who's spent the last ten years running a (much smaller) Rengo subsidiary, has taken on the top job. We had the AGM today and the board now consists of the original three directors with three more from Rengo. Toshiaki is auditor.

So big changes for me personally. Some good, some not so good. I've lost use of the Toyota Prius hybrid car I loved to drive. Handed over the keys to the new boss. I've changed rooms. I'm back in splendid isolation in ojiichan, my father-in-law's,  office. It's where I got put in the very early days: a huge room with alcoves, a massive desk and a carpet (in the old days, visitors had to change into slippers before entering the hallowed space). When I came to live here full time in 2006, I moved into a simpler office to be part of the action and it's that office I vacated.

Handed over the company seals too: the daihyosha-in (代表者印). My relief was palpable but for those of you who're not familiar with this an explanation is in order. All Japanese companies have to have a 'legal representative' (daihyosha):  someone who signs the cheques, backs the loans, and takes final responsibility for everything. Unlike a signature which is hard to forge, company seals can easily be 'borrowed' and mis-used.  They are kept in the company safe and, after a bad experience last year, I guard them with my life.The seals are important but they are also symptomatic. No longer is it my responsiblity and mine alone to turn a profit, pay the bills, and make difficult decisions. I feel a great weight lifted from my shoulders. It's already been easier this last month as I've had access to the Rengo head office in Osaka. I could just ring them up with a question and with an office full of bright people I'd get an answer within the hour. It was a novel experience and made me realise how hard, and lonely, it is at the top of a small company.

So one down and four to go. Yes, I'm still daihyosha of four more companies (one with 12 staff). So still lots more work to be done before I can retire and go home. But for tonight, a minor celebration on today's important milestone.
Love to you all


  1. Enjoy your greater freedom!

    One question - why doesn't the Japanese for 9/11 mention numbers? I imagine you mean that there is another name completely for the attack on New York.? I am very sorry that you're having more bad weather, especially as the reactors are not secured, but I hope that all will be well.

  2. Hi,
    Thanks for your comment.
    Maybe I didn't make my explanation for the Japanese translation of 9.11 clear enough. I've added a literal translation of the phraase used to describe the disaster which is 'simultaneous multi terrorist incident'. Quite a mouthful. '9.11' is certainly a more powerful label.