Corporate museums lie somewhere in between the academic world of museums and the business world of companies. They also serve as organizations that help companies manage many aspects of their operations, including public relations, branding, advertising, and human resources. This article series will explore corporate museums, their roles and functions, and the opportunities they present, all with the help of PR professionals.

 

 

Akemi Sakurai, PR Consulting Dentsu Inc.

 

The Inamori Library: Passing on the Kyocera Philosophy at the heart of the company’s business management

The late Kazuo Inamori is an iconic figure in Japan’s postwar business community. He was known as a miracle worker in business, having grown Kyocera to achieve sales revenue of approximately ¥2 trillion, and the KDDI Group to achieve sales revenue of approximately ¥5.7 trillion (both figures are for the fiscal year ended March 2023), while also successfully guiding the formerly bankrupt Japan Airlines to recovery. As a peerless figure in business, Inamori is most renowned for his achievements in proving his motto, “living in the right way as a human being leads to success in business”, showing that a concept which at first appears difficult to pin down can be applied in reality.

In this article, we examine how Kazuo Inamori, as a visionary thinker thought deeply to embody in his actions through his Kyocera Philosophy, which placed importance on “how we should live as human beings”. We visit The Inamori Library to see the role it plays in passing down to the next generation Inamori’s thoughts what kind of company Kyocera should strive to be and the required characteristics of corporate leaders.

 

Founding a Library to Keep the Kyocera Philosophy from Fading Away

Fushimi Ward, in southeastern Kyoto, which is blessed with rich water sources including the Katsura and Uji Rivers, has long prospered as a center of sake production and agriculture. The district includes Rakunan Shinto, an industrial area specifically designated for advanced manufacturing industries, and it is here that we can find both the Kyocera headquarters and Inamori Library. The library was established as a center for learning about and passing on the Kyocera Philosophy, Kyocera founder Kazuo Inamori’s philosophy of life and business. The facility is an expression of Kyocera’s desire to achieve further growth as a company while staying true to the founder’s principles.

 

Inamori Library is an eight-story building adjacent to the Kyocera Headquarters.
Photo courtesy of Kyocera / Inamori Library

 

The library is designed for various visitors including all Kyocera Group employees, business leaders from around the world, businesspeople, and students. Many visitors come from outside Japan, making up 40% of the 20,000 annual visitors. Pamphlets are available not only in Japanese but also in English, Simplified Chinese and Korean. The library employs two guides and two curators, with guided tours available for groups of 10 or more people. Running the library is the responsibility of Inamori Library Research Section and Operations Section of Kyocera’s Corporate, General Affairs and Human Resources Department. In addition to regular visits, the library also, in response to requests from other companies and local authorities, provides training courses on Inamori’s philosophy. Further, in coordination with Kyocera’s CSR Activities Section, the library is also actively involved in local community activities, including a local community walking event, which sees the library serve as a rest stop.

The history of Inamori Library begins in 2002, when a section of the company’s former headquarters (in Yamashina Ward, Kyoto) was transformed into a training facility for company employees at the suggestion of the then company Chair Kensuke Ito. In 2013, the library moved into a refurbished eight-story building adjacent to the current Kyocera headquarters, at which time it was opened to the public. The timing of the public opening also coincided with the return of Inamori to Kyocera from Japan Airlines, and new exhibits on Inamori’s work at KDDI and Japan Airlines, which were not included at the library’s former site, were added to the displays. The building’s first five floors are dedicated to the library’s exhibits, which include various materials, articles, images, and videos in a collection totaling around 166,000 items.

Inamori himself was reportedly somewhat hesitant over a library dedicated to his own achievements. However, Ito, who worked together with Inamori at a company called Shofu Industrial prior to the foundation of Kyocera, and who was also involved in Kyocera’s founding, worked to convince Inamori of the need for the library, saying, with some urgency, that “the company’s fate will be sealed if its founding philosophy fades away; that is why that philosophy must be kept alive.” This in the end helped convince Inamori that publishing his personal story and related documents would help future generations, leading him to accept the founding of the library. However, the library was not Ito’s first proposal for preserving Inamori’s legacy. In 1994, to celebrate the 35th anniversary of the company’s founding, he also organized the publication of Kyocera Philosophy Handbook, distributing the handbook to all company employees.

 

Kazuo Inamori, Kyocera’s founder

Kazuo Inamori, born in 1932, was the second son born to the owner of a printing company in Kagoshima. At the age of 12 he was infected with tuberculosis, then considered a fatal disease. Although he recovered from the condition, he went on to suffer other setbacks including failing entrance exams for both middle school and university under the former education system in place in Japan prior to World War Two. Inamori eventually entered the faculty of engineering in Kagoshima University, going on to achieve a strong academic record. Despite this, he struggled to find a job in the difficult employment market before, finally, at the recommendation of one of his instructors, starting work with Shofu Industrial Co., Ltd, a company in Kyoto that made insulators but which was “more or less on the point of bankruptcy”. Five other people joined the company at the same time, but one after another they began to leave. Inamori and those remaining decided to try to join Japan’s Self-Defense Forces. Inamori passed the entrance exam, but his older brother, who objected to him leaving his job, did not submit the necessary documents by the required deadline, resulting in Inamori remaining at Shofu.

 

Kazuo Inamori, Kyocera’s founder
Photo courtesy of Kyocera / Inamori Library

 

Realizing he had to stay put, Inamori threw himself into his work. He began to achieve strong research results, and started enjoying his job. In just a year and a half, Inamori succeeded in achieving the world’s second-ever successful synthesis of a high frequency electrical insulating material known as forsterite. At the time, forsterite was essential for the production of the U-shaped ceramic insulators (known in Japan as “kelcima”) that were used in television cathode ray tubes, a product then experiencing a rapid increase in demand. Shofu Industries had started development of forsterite ceramics after receiving a request from Matsushita Electronics Industry (now Panasonic) to manufacture the U-shaped ceramic insulators, as Matsushita was then having to rely on components imported from Europe and the US.

Sometime later, following disagreements with his boss, Inamori left Shofu, but he was able to set up his own company with financial support from his former boss Masaji Aoyama and some of Aoyama’s associates. Inamori launched Kyoto Ceramics (currently Kyocera) with ¥3 million in capital and an additional ¥10 million in working capital from Ichie Nishieda, a senior executive of Miyaki Electric Manufacturing, who sourced the funds by putting his own house up as collateral. The year was 1959 and Inamori was just 27 years old. Inamori worked day and night to meet the expectations of the supporters, employees, and their families, who had placed trust in him and given him this opportunity. He also studied management. While dealing with various difficult issues, including employees demands for guarantees over their future compensation and stubborn technical development challenges, Kyocera grew extremely rapidly as it won orders for the production of major components for delivery to large corporations. It was during the course of this journey that Inamori developed his own unique management philosophy, encouraging the maximization of sales revenue and the minimization of expenses under the banner of “amoeba management”, which saw each small section of the organization take responsibility for its own profitability.

In 1984, convinced that “having multiple different companies participate in the communications industry to create a healthy competitive environment is the best way to produce lower prices and better services that will benefit the public”, Inamori, having repeatedly asked himself about the best course of action for prioritizing the public good rather than his own benefit, decided to launch DDI Corporation (currently KDDI), concurrent with the privatization of Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Public Corporation (currently NTT), laying the foundations for the future growth of KDDI, now one of Japan’s largest telephone and communications companies.

In 2010, only a few years before he turned 80, Inamori accepted a government request to become the unsalaried chairman of Japan Airlines (JAL) , which had declared bankruptcy, having gone under holding the largest sum of liabilities owed by any company in postwar Japan. There were initially doubts over whether Inamori, who had no experience in the aviation industry, could rebuild the company, with concerns that, in taking the post, he would tarnish his reputation in his later years. However, Inamori, recognizing the benefit to society of saving the company, was determined to take up the position. His tenure was successful, with the company rapidly rebounding and, incredibly, relisting on the Tokyo stock exchange just two and a half years after its prior delisting.

In addition to his business management career, Inamori was also the founder of the Seiyujyuku (later Seiwajyuku), a school that expounded on Inamori’s management philosophy, which Inamori established at the request of some young businesspeople. Inamori worked as a volunteer at the school, contributing to the education of future generations. By the time Inamori closed the school in 2019 due to his advanced age, it had 104 branches across the world and nearly 15,000 students.

Inamori was also involved in social activities, using his private funds to launch the Inamori Foundation in 1984. The following year, he also established the Kyoto Prize, an international prize awarded to people who contribute to the advancement and development of humanity and society. In 1997, he became a lay Buddhist priest affiliated with Enpuku-ji, a temple within the Myoshin-ji school, a major branch of Rinzai Zen Buddhism. In his later years, Inamori was also heavily involved in the Inamori Foundation’s work.

 

The general exhibition on the first floor captures the essence of Inamori Library

When entering the library, the first thing visitors notice is a copy, hanging in the entrance hall, of “Respect the Divine, Love People”, a calligraphy work that serves as the Kyocera company motto. This saying was a favorite of Saigo Takamori, a 19th century samurai and hero of Kagoshima, Inamori’s birthplace (Takamori wrote the calligraphy under the name Nanshu).

 

“Respect the Divine, Love People” calligraphy by Saigo Takamori (Nanshu), hanging in a recreation of Kazuo Inamori’s administrative office on the fifth floor of the library
Photo courtesy of Kyocera / Inamori Library

 

The calligraphy “Respect the Divine, Love People”, which was previously on display at the Nanshu Shrine, was gifted to Inamori by Otoya Miyaki, the president of Miyaki Electric Manufacturing, and one of Inamori’s financial supporters at the time that he founded Kyocera. Inamori hung the gift in his office. After viewing the copy of the calligraphy at the library’s entrance, visitors can learn from the rest of the first floor exhibits which cover a wide range of ground, including Inamori’s birth, the various encounters and events that helped shape his management philosophy, and summaries of the various businesses he participated in as an engineer and businessperson. Anyone lacking the time to explore the entire library can quickly learn about the essence of Inamori’s life from these exhibits.

During his life, Inamori published 73 books (55 books as sole author, 18 books as joint author), which have sold a cumulative total of more than 25 million copies. A selection of these books are available on the library’s first floor. In particular, the book “A Compass to Fulfillment—Passion and Spirituality in Life and Business” (2004, Sunmark, published in Japanese as Ikikata) has been translated into 19 languages, and is particularly popular in China, where it became a bestseller, selling 6 million copies (as of January 2024).

In his book, Inamori notes that “management is not about management methods, it is something that a leader must show in how they conduct themselves. Unless they do this, it is impossible to win the support of employees and exercise true leadership”. This way of thinking struck a chord with many businesspeople in China who had previously looked more towards Western management styles but had begun to realize that, in times of crisis, there are limits to the effectiveness of the Western-style management model. With its unique approach, Inamori’s book generated a huge impact, finding widespread acceptance among Chinese businesspeople, who were astounded by its content.

The first floor also features a presentation room showing a video entitled, “Respect the Divine, Love People.” The video is popular among many visitors, who feel that it deepens their understanding of the exhibits. The video provides a condensed look at Inamori’s early life, his business philosophy, his business activities and social contribution.

 

A Matsushita Electronics Industry cathode ray tube television and a U-shaped “kelcima” ceramic insulator
Photo courtesy of Kyocera / Inamori Library

 

2nd Floor “Technology/business management”

The library’s second through fifth floors each feature exhibits centered around a particular theme or concept. The theme for the second floor is “technology and business management”, and the exhibits showcase Inamori’s development as both an engineer and business executive. One exhibit shows a cathode ray tube television produced by Matsushita Electronics Industry accompanied by a thin, small U-shaped ceramic component. This component, the U-shaped “kelcima” (a Dutch word for ceramics) is made from the high frequency insulator forsterite, a material that Inamori successfully synthesized, the world’s second successful synthesis of the material following the US company General Electric.

Other exhibits include a replica of the electric tunnel furnace, a first for Japan, which Inamori proposed during his time at Shofu Industries for use in kilns, a replica of a vacuum tube cooling chamber, which Inamori successfully developed after a long struggle following an order from Mitsubishi Electric in the early days of Kyocera, and also recrystallized emeralds synthesized to have exactly the same composition as a natural emerald.

The vacuum tube cooling chamber, which is water cooled, is a large chamber with a complex shape design for cooling transmitting tubes. To ensure that the ceramic did not crack during the drying process, Inamori would wrap the whole chamber in a cloth, holding onto it throughout the night, rotating it little by little to dry it slowly. This anecdote clearly illustrates Inamori’s commitment to “never give up on any of the products he started and always make sure he saw production through to the end”.

 

Vacuum tube cooling chamber (replica)
Photo courtesy of Kyocera / Inamori Library

 

 

Recrystallized emeralds
Photo courtesy of Kyocera / Inamori Library

 

 

The PC-8201computer, developed by Kyocera and sold by NEC, was developed after Kyocera acquired the Cybernet Electronics Corporation.
Microsoft founder Bill Gates was involved in programming the computer
Photo courtesy of Kyocera / Inamori Library

 

Other exhibits include Kyocera Philosophy Handbook which outlines the company’s code of conduct, and other philosophy handbooks which were produced when Inamori was involved in the management of KDDI and Japan Airlines. One notable exhibit is an artwork representing an orchestra, which was created by JAL mechanics and presented to Inamori as a token of thanks when he retired from the company.

 

“Orchestral artwork” presented by JAL mechanics
Photo courtesy of Kyocera / Inamori Library

 

The artwork, which was produced by the mechanics from disused aircraft components, shows Inamori as an orchestra conductor guiding musicians, who represent the mechanics working in harmony under his direction. Each one of the 15 musician figures created by the mechanics is positioned differently, representing how each individual must fulfill their own role for a company to function effectively.

 

3rd Floor “Philosophy”

At the main entrance to the third floor is a copy of Inamori’s first-ever book, which carries the English title “Elevate your Mind and Expand your Business” (1989, PHP Institute). The recommendation on the strip wrapped around the cover is from Konosuke Matsushita, the legendary founder of Panasonic whose idea of “dam management” inspired Inamori. Matsushita writes that “Inamori believes in ‘the unlimited capability of people, and encourages people to live a fulfilling life by demonstrating that capability’, and I was struck by his passion and conviction”.

 

Inamori’s first book “Elevate your Mind and Expand your Business”, with words of recommendation from Panasonic founder Konosuke Matsushita.
Photo courtesy of Kyocera / Inamori Library

 

 

A commemorative plate from IBM Japan encouraging us to “Think!”
Photo courtesy of Kyocera / Inamori Library

 

1. Clearly State the Purpose and Mission of Your Business.
2. Set Specific Goals.
3. Keep a Passionate Desire in Your Heart.
4. Strive Harder than Anyone Else.
5. Maximize Revenues and Minimize Expenses.
6. Pricing Is Management.
7. Success Is Determined by Willpower.
8. Possess a Fighting Spirit.
9. Face Every Challenge with Courage.
10. Always Be Creative in Your Work.
11. Be Kind and Sincere.
12. Always Be Cheerful and Positive. Hold Great Dreams and Hopes in the Pureness of Your Heart.

 

Inamori’s Twelve Management Principles (Photo courtesy of Kyocera / Inamori Library)

 

In the center of the third floor, is a section partitioned by walls. On the outside of the wall are Inamori’s Twelve Management Principles. Inside the wall is a small theater, where visitors can watch six videos of lectures from the Seiwajyuku, with titles including “Results in life or work = attitude ×effort ×Ability”, and “Love your work”. From Inamori’s honest style of speaking, which reaches out to each individual, we can sense his modesty, sincerity and conscientiousness.

The exhibit also includes text which shows how Inamori arrived at the formula “results in life or work = attitude (-100~100) × effort (0~100) × ability (0~100)”. Originally, he had written “willpower × ability × attitude” in pen, but above the word “willpower”, Inamori has written “effort” in pencil. Many people will also be in agreement with and encouraged by the words “the most important thing for a human being is a good attiude. If someone without ability has effort, they will accumulate more results than someone with ability but does not do anything”.

Other exhibits include the bag in which Inamori carried heavy product prototypes, a memo of concentric circles representing a desired mental state, the desk from Inamori’s time at the company headquarters in Shiga, and other objects that Inamori regularly used. On top of the desk, is a plate gifted from IBM Japan which simply states “Think!”, a word which Inamori used as his motto when working at the Shiga headquarters during his 30s. Reportedly, Inamori originally placed the plate to face towards him.

 

4th floor Social Activities

During his life, Inamori won numerous prizes in recognition of technology, business management and social activities. However, Inamori believed that, as he had earned a considerable fortune through the success of Kyocera, it was actually more appropriate for him to give back to others and reward with prizes those who worked for society and for other people; and it has to be done with “an altruistic mind. ”

In 1984, he invested ¥20 billion of his private funds to establish the Inamori Foundation. The following year, the foundation established the “Kyoto Prize”, an international prize intended for individuals who had made notable contributions to the development of science and culture, working harder than anybody else to advance the fields of human science, civilization and spirituality. Inamori cited two reasons for launching the prize: a desire to give back to the society that raised him, and the relative lack of prizes that researchers, who often work hard behind the scenes, would be genuinely delighted to receive. The fourth floor exhibits include a replica of the Kyoto Prize medal, as well as photographs of previous prizewinners. Ten of the prize winning researchers later went on to win a Nobel Prize.

As stated above, Inamori also set up the Seiwajyuku to encourage the development of young businesspeople, serving as the school’s leader in a volunteer capacity. Inamori said that “the secret to good management lies in the executive’s attitude. If business leaders truly understand the nature of their business and adapt their attitude accordingly, success in business will surely follow. I hope that businesspeople from across Japan who wish to elevate their morals and achieve company’s stability and success should gather here at the school”. Leaders of small- and medium-sized businesses answered Inamori’s call, listened to him speak and learned his business philosophy. As word of the school spread, new branches began to open in regions across the country, and eventually across the world. Former students of the school included Takashi Sakamoto, founder of Book Off Corporation and Oreno Corporation, Yuichiro Hamada, founder of the Hamada Group, and Nichimu Inada, founder of Family Inada.

When Inamori was entrusted with rebuilding Japan Airlines, the school’s former students wanted to give something back to Inamori, and they formed the “JAL support group”. The 5500 students of the school (at the time) each reached out to 100 people in a campaign aiming to have 550,000 people fly with JAL, giving message cards of support to the airline’s staff. The campaign showed how the school’s students had adopted Inamori’s philosophy of putting other people first. In the middle of the fourth floor is a theater room, showing films describing the activities of Inamori Foundation and Seiwajyuku. The film “Respect the Divine, Love People”, which can be seen on the first floor, is also available here.

 

5th Floor: Recreated Office

On the fifth floor is a re-creation of Inamori’s office, including the “Respect the Divine, Love People” calligraphy, the large table Inamori would engage in discussions with his staff, and also Inamori’s desk. On the desk are various items including a copy of Nanshuoikun, a collection of writings by Saigo Takamori, business cards, a name plate, and other ordinary items such as Inamori’s pens. Inamori was apparently not particularly fussed about material possessions. The bookshelves include Inamori’s own works, research papers that Inamori continually referred to from his university days onwards, and gifts that Inamori received from various individuals.

 

Recreation of Kazuo Inamori’s office
Photo courtesy of Kyocera / Inamori Library

 

In this room, Inamori frequently engaged in deep thought, planned his business vision, and read the Nanshuoikun, always working to improve himself. He would teach the “correct path”, sometimes in a voice loud enough to be heard outside the room. When people left the room, he would always put his hands together and give them a “thank you.” Whether they had been encouraged or scolded by Inamori, his visitors would always reportedly leave the room with new conviction. Visitors to the room can imagine the daily working life of this business leader, and Kyocera employees will be able to look back and fondly remember working with Inamori during his career.

 

An increasing number of good leaders will naturally take the world in a better direction

During his life, Inamori was frequently heard to say “I wish there was my alter ego.” He named his management style “amoeba management”, where each individual leader takes responsibility for their own unit’s profitability, and amoeba’s reproduce by splitting themselves.

There is a limit to what one person can do. While people do not always act in the correct way, Inamori believed that the world would naturally move in a better direction if an increasing number of leaders took action only after focusing their decisions on what is important for people and thinking deeply before they act. At Inamori Library, we can gain a sense of Kazuo Inamori’s life, and how he served as a spark that help people lift themselves up and live better lives.