Brands explained / Tokyo
Once a nondescript office area with little in the way of shops or restaurants, Marunouchi in Tokyo is undergoing the latest stages of a 20-year transformation into a vibrant retail and financial centre. The next phase will see the building of Mitsubishi’s Marunouchi Park Building, which includes a 34-floor office tower, shops, a rose garden and an art gallery housed in a replica of Mitsubishi’s first office building.
Mitsubishi Estate is one of the many Mitsubishi firms that link back to an 1870s shipping company set up by Yataro Iwasaki. Mitsubishi was disbanded after the Second World War because of Allied actions to limit Japanese companies but merged again after the 1952 San Francisco Peace Treaty. The Estate reported €6bn revenue in 2007.
This corporate giant has 180 offices worldwide and had revenue of €4.4bn in 2007. It started life in the 17th century as a shop in Kyoto selling medicines and books. Today the Sumitomo family name is a brand known for such diverse operations as construction equipment, cable TV infrastructure, property, uranium and pet supplies.
Tobei Masataka, a temple carpenter, started the business in Nagoya in 1610. Today the company, which takes care of everything from planning buildings to constructing and maintaining them, employs 8,000 people and has annual sales of €6bn. Other ongoing projects include constructing a “tropical city” at Singapore Changi Airport.
The original Mitsubishi Ichigokan No. 1 building – designed by British architect Josiah Condor in 1894 but demolished in 1968 – is being rebuilt as a museum, using 2.3 million red, custom-ordered bricks from China. Bricklaying isn’t a Japanese speciality: hundreds of bricklayers were interviewed to find the perfect craftsmen.
Nippon Steel Corp
Founded in 1901, Nippon Steel Corporation is the world’s second largest steel maker. It owns sports teams, runs school training programmes to foster new Japanese steelmakers and supports young classical musicians with its Nippon Steel Concert. The company employs around 18,000 people and made profits of €2.55bn in 2007.
The world’s largest banking group in terms of assets. Founded in 1919, Tokyo-Mitsubishi employs over 34,000 people, and has nearly 700 branches in Japan. The bank cares for the environment through its commitment to the Equator Principles, which stipulate that financial activities should be socially and environmentally sound.
The 34-storey office building by Mitsubishi’s in-house architecture practice, Jisho Sekkei, will be both safe and green. Its vibration-control walls and concrete-filled steel pillars make it a stable structure. Plants and solar panels on the roof, toilets that use rainwater and thermal central heating tick all the boxes for energy efficiency.
Mitsubishi workers will be happy to know their building has earthquake-resistant walls that reduce vibration by 30 per cent. The seismic isolation systems evolved from a 1920s wooden tobacco-rolling machine, which inspired Oiles founder, Sozo Kawasaki, to design the oil-free bearings used in bridges and buildings around the world.