Japan’s Family, Shop, and Company Precepts (Rules) throughout History of Japan

Japanese Companies Missions and Visions and Precepts

When you establish a business, it is important to also clearly establish the basic precepts that underlie the business and how you plan to conduct it. Indeed, many companies operating in today's world have clearly defined business precepts.

Looking back through history, you find that the old Japanese merchant and warrior houses also had their own precepts. Let us look at the precepts handed down from two old warrior houses.

Uesugi Family Precepts 上杉家の家訓

  • When you carry nothing in your heart, you find openness of spirit and physical ease.
  • When you free yourself from conceit, you can live in harmony with others.
  • When you free yourself from desires, you can fulfill your obligations to others.
  • When you free yourself from selfishness, you can trust others.
  • When you free yourself from self-importance, you can respect others.
  • When you free yourself from guilt, you will not fear others.
  • When you free yourself from wickedness, you can be an example for others.
  • When you free yourself from lust, you will not need to flatter others.
  • When you free yourself from anger, you can speak gently to others.
  • When you free yourself from impatience, you can put things in good order.
  • When you free yourself from gloom, you can be tranquil.
  • When you have courage, you are free from regret.
  • When you are noble, you want for nothing from others.
  • When you have a sense of duty to your parents, you can serve your master with loyalty.
  • When you are free from pride, you can rejoice in the good fortune of others.
  • When you are free from doubt, you will not censure others.

Date Masamune's Final Testament 伊達政宗の遺訓

  1. Valuing others too much brings weakness. Standing on principles too much brings inflexibility. Too much politeness is an insult. Valuing thinking over experience leads to lies. Credulity leads to exploitation by others.
  2. Release your tension, maintain a trusting heart, be tranquil and frugal, and accumulate money. Being frugal may be trying, but bear it. If you think of yourself as a temporary guest in this world, suffering will not trouble you.
  3. Be thankful for your daily bread, even if it is rough and not to your taste. As a temporary guest in this world, you have nothing to complain about.
  4. You may die today or tomorrow. Therefore, you should treat your family and siblings such that you will have not regrets when you must leave them.

Japan's old merchant houses also had their own unique precepts. Many famous established shops and traditional businesses still operating today had their own precepts set down by their founders. Here are examples from three legendary merchant houses.

Mitsui Family Precepts 三井家の家憲

  1. The wind may snap a single tree, but a forest will resist it. Just so, the subsidiary families must pool their strengths, maintain good relations, and work for the welfare of the House of Mitsui.
  2. The profits earned by each family should be distributed among the others after first deducting a fixed reserve.
  3. Each family must nominate one elder to supervise the entire body, and each must follow his orders.
  4. The families must never engage in conflict.
  5. Extravagance is strictly forbidden. Strive to be frugal.
  6. If those who lead are qualified, those who follow will work hard. Therefore, the greatest care must be given to appoint the wise and capable. Care must also be taken to ensure that those under one's charge do not become discontented, resentful, or unhappy.
  7. Each family head must strive to be aware of every matter that concerns his house.
  8. Each family's children must spend a certain amount of time working under the same conditions and with the same treatment as the employees, working under the chief clerk and the shop assistants, and must not receive any special treatment.
  9. As part of doing business, know when to cut your losses.
  10. Go to Nagasaki and engage in foreign trade

Iwasaki Family (Mitsubishi) Precepts 岩崎家(三菱)の家訓

  1. He who fusses over small transactions cannot be entrusted with large transactions. Establish appropriate policies to make large transactions possible.
  2. Once you enter into a transaction, finish it successfully.
  3. Do not engage in speculative ventures for any reason.
  4. Never forget that your business activities must benefit the nation.
  5. Work with diligence, never forgetting your obligation to your master.
  6. Work hard, be frugal with yourself and generous with others.
  7. Assign appropriate duties to your employees based on careful evaluation of their character and skills.
  8. Treat your employees well. Allocate the proceeds of the business to them generously.
  9. When embarking on new business, be bold. When you take over a business from others, be conservative. Many loosely controlled, small expenditures are more likely to bring losses than a few large expenditures.

It is evident that each of these entities has a clearly defined basic protocol for conducting business. The same is true with companies today. Here are just a few.

Ten Spartan Rules of Dentsu (Dentsu Inc.) 株式会社電通の電通鬼十則

  1. Initiate projects on your own instead of waiting for work to be assigned.
  2. Take an active role in all your endeavors, not a passive one.
  3. Search for large and complex challenges.
  4. Welcome difficult assignments. Progress lies in accomplishing difficult work.
  5. Once you begin a task, complete it. Never give up.
  6. Lead and set an example for your fellow workers.
  7. Set goals for yourself to ensure a constant sense of purpose.
  8. Move with confidence. It gives your work force and substance.
  9. At all times, challenge yourself to think creatively and find new solutions.
  10. When confrontation is necessary, don’t shy away from it. Confrontation is often necessary to achieve progress.

The Asahi Shimbun (Newspaper) Credo 朝日新聞綱領

  1. To be impartial and unbiased; to safeguard freedom of speech and thus contribute to the perfecting of a democratic nation and the ensuring of world peace.
  2. To be devoted to the welfare of the nation, in the name of justice and humanitarianism; to reject all forms of wrongdoing, violence and corruption.
  3. To report the truth fairly and promptly; to keep editorial comment liberal, yet impartial.
  4. To cherish tolerance at all times; to preserve a sense of responsibility and dignity without sacrificing vitality and freshness.

Basic Management Objective of Matsushita Electric 松下電器の綱領

Recognizing our responsibilities as industrialists, we will devote ourselves to the progress and development of society and the well-being of people through our business activities, thereby enhancing the quality of life throughout the world.

Company Creed of Matsushita Electric 松下電器の信条

Progress and development can be realized only through the combined efforts and cooperation of each employee of our company. United in spirit, we pledge to perform our corporate duties with dedication, diligence and integrity.

The Seven Principles of Matsushita Electric 松下電器の遵奉すべき精神

1. Contribution to Society

We will conduct ourselves at all times in accordance with the Basic Management Objective, faithfully fulfilling our responsibilities as industrialists to the communities in which we operate.

2. Fairness and Honesty

We will be fair and honest in all our business dealings and personal conduct. No matter how talented and knowledgeable we may be, without personal integrity, we can neither earn the respect of others, nor enhance our own self-respect.

3. Cooperation and Team Spirit

We will pool our abilities to accomplish our shared goals. No matter how talented we are as individuals, without cooperation and team spirit we will be a company in name only.

4. Untiring Effort for Improvement

We will strive constantly to improve our ability to contribute to society through our business activities. Only through this untiring effort can we fulfill our Basic Management Objective and help to realize lasting peace and prosperity.

5. Courtesy and Humility

We will always be cordial and modest, respecting the rights and needs of others in order to strengthen healthy social relationships and improve the quality of life in our communities.

6. Adaptability

We will continually adapt our thinking and behavior to meet the ever-changing conditions around us, taking care to act in harmony with nature to ensure progress and success in our endeavors.

7. Gratitude

We will act out of a sense of gratitude for all the benefits we have received, confident that this attitude will be a source of unbounded joy and vitality, enabling us to overcome any obstacles we encounter.

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