Sogo Shosha

Our final business visit of the day was to Itochu, a Japanese general trading concern and Fortune 500 company. It ranks as one of the largest sogo shosha, or Japanese general trading concerns. Itochu gradually evolved from a pure buying and selling firm to a diverse global manufacturing, supplying, exporting, and investment organization. It is now among the world’s largest companies with more than 700 subsidiaries.

The UMaine students were briefed by two Itochu representatives: Mamie Ogawa of the electronics device department and Shinya Nishimaki of the fresh food business division. Both Mamie and Shinya recently spent a semester at the University of Southern Maine. Itochu regularly sends new employees (called “freshmen” in their 5th year of employment) to USM to study english and conduct research. Mamie, for example, studied the Maine lobster industry.

Mamie and Shinya provided both a business and personal perspective of life in Japan as a new entrant in a very traditional Japanese company, ranging from their hours of work, office conditions and management styles. They were 2 of just 135 people selected by Itochu from a pool of over 35,000 applicants for the positions available.

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