Re: Looking back over my life and business in the United States(8) April 15, 2022 

 In September 1983, at the age of forty, I did a career change and joined Konoike Transport Co., Ltd. And what I was worried about as I understood the actual conditions of Konoike in those days was that it heavily depended on a specific department, namely the steel industry.

I had to change it somehow, because it would be all right while the wind was favorable for the department, but once the wind became against it was unable to put up a fight. I felt a sense of danger in this situation, and I set my objective where Konoike aimed for becoming “integrated logistics company” through developing and strengthening 5 departments which were “medical, food, clothing and housing” adding “international logistics”. In order to do so, “reform in the way of thinking” by employees was necessary. However, it was not easy for me to explain necessity of “structural reform”, because Konoike had more than 100 years history, and the steel industry was so solid that they say “iron is a nation” and it could get along with the steel only. Even now, I think that if “reform in the way of thinking” can be done whatever it is, “reform of system” or “structural reform” is possible. “Reform in the way of thinking” is difficult to be achieved, and I think that this is no doubt an important role for the top management.

Well, what I thought before everything as a vision of “international logistics” which is one of my objectives was to offer detailed logistic service in the Pacific rim economic region which surrounds the west coast of the United States, developing Asian countries, and China starting “Reform and Opening-up”, pivoted on Japan. But in those days, this was entirely an unknown world for employees. When I told that “You are going to work at China* shortly”, I was asked a question in return “Is it Okayama, or Hiroshima?” It is a funny story now.
(*The western part of Honshu is called ‘Chugoku region’ in Japan. ‘China’ is also called ‘Chugoku’ in Japanese.)

 And in 1985, I established overseas offices such as Los Angeles in the United States, Beijing and Shanghai in China, Hong Kong, and Singapore all at once. Now its network is expanding in Vietnam, the Philippines, Indonesia, Thailand, Myanmar, and India.

As far as the United States is concerned, according to my experience, the west area from the Rocky Mountains has a close economic relationship with Asian countries, and I thought that this area was a gateway to the United States in terms of logistics. Therefore, I decided Los Angeles as a center of our activity without hesitation. And then, I decided to send two representatives, but it was impossible for them if I said “Think about something in Los Angeles”. Therefore, I thought that it was necessary for them to have a practical business, and I acquired small sized Japanese forwarder, but it did not work as a result. But even now, I think that forwarding is an advanced guard for expanding locally.

In the meantime, I met Mr. Seiji Morimoto who worked at Port and Harbor Authority in Los Angeles in those days (at present, an adviser at JETRO). Our exchange has continued for 35 years since then. This encounter was the start for freezing refrigerating warehouse business which is a pillar of Konoike’s business in the United States today. Because he introduced a Canadian American who operated the same business in Seattle to me, and I started the said business near Los Angeles.

And when I set foot in the planned construction site of freezing refrigerating warehouse (about 73 thousand square meters) was on August 8, 1988 that I will never forget. A new history of Konoike in the United States has started since then. That place was the site of petroleum product manufacturing factory. There was an oilrig on the premises, and the price of this land included an oil concession too. In those days, the crude oil price was 10 dollars mark per barrel, and it is said that I told people around me “This price will become profitable if the crude oil price is 100 dollars”.

It seemed to me that everything went well, but various problems had happened later, and I spent days of endless trouble. To begin operating the warehouse was in January 1995, six years later after the acquisition of the land, and it took another 10 years to run my warehouse smoothly in terms of profitability. I will tell you the rest of the story next time.

(P.S.) About 50 days have passed since the invasion to Ukraine by Russia. The horrifying destruction is continuing every day, and what is shown on television is cities in ruins. Looking at the past history, an insane person who is ready to go to war in order to achieve his objective due to his peculiar conviction like Putin sometimes comes into existence. Once such thing happens in real life, the teachings of our ancestors such as “Don’t be too sure of yourself” or “If you are prepared, you do not need to worry” make me realize.
On the other hand, “Japanese Yen” has been sold these days, and its weakness following Russian “ruble” is pointed out. And corporate goods price index in February is rising significantly at the level of 9.3% due to the rise of commodity prices including crude oil and the depreciation of the yen for the first time in 20 years, but the rise of the consumer price index still remains 0.6%. In February, the consumer price in the United States rises 7.9 % which is high level for the first time in 40 years, and the consumer price in the United Kingdom rises 6.2% which is also high level for the first time in 30 years. Comparing with these figures, CPI in Japan is unusually low. This does not mean that Japanese government policy is successful. Capital dynamism of Japanese economy is weakening as symbolized by the only 4% rise of wages in last 20 years. In human bodies, it looks like hardening of the arteries, and I have no choice but to feel misgivings about our future.

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