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A True Kansai Native Enters the International Business Arena: Excitement and Education as an Expat in London

In our series “Lunch Breaks Around the World,” we explore the daily lives of employees working around the world at Sumitomo Corporation Group, an integrated trading and business investment company, by starting with a simple question: "What did you eat for lunch today?"

In this installment, we interviewed Yuya Tosaka, who has been stationed at Sumitomo Corporation Europe since October 2022, where he is responsible for corporate planning, corporate communication and sustainability. We enjoyed speaking with him about the challenges and successes in his work, how he communicates with local staff, and life in London.

  • Corporate Planning Department, Sumitomo Corporation Europe

    Yuya Tosaka

    Yuya joined Sumitomo Corporation in 2013. Initially assigned to the Information Technologies Planning & Promotion Dept., he was responsible for the operation and replacement of internal systems. He then worked in the Corporate Communications Dept. and the Corporate Sustainability Dept. before being transferred to the Corporate Planning Dept. of Sumitomo Corporation Europe on his first overseas assignment in October 2022. Born and raised in Osaka, Yuya is, as he says, "a genuine Kansai native.”

Q1. What’s on the menu for lunch today?

Lunch with Yuya Tosaka
Full English Breakfast

Today’s lunch is a full English breakfast, an iconic global dish. Eggs, bacon, sausage, baked beans, tomatoes, mushrooms and toast are all served on a single plate for this traditional English feast – good any time of the day! It might be surprising to think this is what Brits traditionally have for breakfast, but the balance of flavours and volume is perfect, and it’s definitely a satisfying meal.

Food in the UK elicits mixed opinions, but British cuisine is very diverse. The high cost of living aside, I am more than satisfied with the culinary options in London. I often go to lunch with my colleagues and do my best to communicate with people across different departments. To be honest, I often skip lunch, preferring a quality breakfast and dinner, and to spend my lunch hour in peace and quiet.

Q2. Can you please tell us about your workplace?

Sumitomo Corporation Europe’s office is on the banks of the river Thames, alongside a number of London’s iconic landmarks, and offers beautiful sunset views at the end of the day. I work in the Corporate Planning Department alongside personnel on assignment from Japan, as well as local staff. As the organization here in London corresponds to Sumitomo Corporation’s Tokyo head office, including departments such as Corporate Planning & Coordination, Global Strategy & Coordination and Corporate Communications, many of the Japanese staff have previously worked together in Tokyo. On the ground, local personnel have a high level of expertise and a wide network of contacts, both inside and outside the company. This makes for a highly skilled and well-balanced team.

London itself is very diverse, attracting people from many different countries. Perhaps because of this, signage here is intuitive and easy to understand. What’s more, the city is almost entirely cashless, to the extent that I’ve used virtually no cash since I arrived in the UK.

Unlike Japan, where unspoken rules play a major role, the culture here allows people to act independently within the limits of rules that are explicit and easy to follow. In my work, I consciously strive to communicate in a simple and easy-to-understand manner under clear guidelines that are unaffected by cultural differences, rather than resorting to lengthy explanations.

Q3. What is the scope of your current work, and have any events made a lasting impression on you?

I am responsible for three areas: corporate planning, corporate communications and sustainability. Corporate planning involves developing strategies for the European region based on the mid- and long-term management strategies of the Sumitomo Corporation Group. Overseas, management and front-line employees work in close proximity, and the ability to experience firsthand the realities of business is a major highlight for me. I am also engaged in corpotrate communications activities, with the goal of creating opportunities for communication that will lead to new business, and creating an image of the company as a great place to work.

My work in sustainability entails making sure we are in compliance with the demands of society and the rules and regulations of the countries we operate in, to ensure the long-term sustainability of our business. Corporate sustainability is a hot topic in Europe, so we emphasize sustainable business practices in our daily operations, both in terms of risks and opportunities.

Working on plans and support for the 50th anniversary celebration of Sumitomo Corporation’s entry into Norway was one of the most memorable corporate communications events I was involved in. Working with Sumitomo Corporation staff in Norway, we created a programme for the event and produced a video documenting the 50-year history of Sumitomo Corporation in Norway. I learned so much. In addition to having to communicate remotely, we needed to bring the entire project together with just two or three people. Many aspects required coordination through diverse avenues, but we worked hard to create a happy fusion of Japanese and Norwegian cultures, clarifying the division of roles and responsibilities to create an excellent event for all parties involved.

Q4. What is most important to remain aware of when working with local staff?

The local staff in London keep to regular working hours. This means that maximizing performance in a limited amount of time is critical, and every effort must be made to avoid wasting time. Even for small tasks, it is important to share the purpose, reason and final image of the deliverables with local staff when making a request. Local staff do not share the Japanese sense of "Simply speaking an idea into fruition.” Conversely, sharing common goals often results in surprising and excellent proposals. While remaining aware that I may have uniquely Japanese sensibilities and values, I aim for optimal communication.

Q5. How do you spend your free time?

The opportunity to see Europe is a great advantage of being stationed in England. I have been to more than ten countries over the past year, and experiencing so much history, culture and cuisine has been inspiring. One of my most memorable trips was to San Sebastian, in the Basque Country of northern Spain, known as one of the best culinary destinations in the world. San Sebastian is full of amazing eateries, including several Michelin-starred restaurants – you really can eat your way across the city. It's a foregone conclusion that you'll be blown away by the food there.

Also, while I enjoyed theater performances including Shiki Theater Company and Takarazuka Revue in Japan, London musicals like Les Miserables and Wicked are fascinating and powerful. The venues are often historical buildings renovated as theater, only amplifying the incredible atmosphere.

Q6. What does “Enriching lives and the world” mean to you?

To enrich society, our company and the world through communication. In my view, the job of a trading company is to show the world new perspectives, including what’s on the horizon. Although I am not directly involved in business as a member of the Corporate Group, I believe that by stimulating communication both internally and externally, it is possible to create new value by connecting people to people, and people to things. As a native of Kansai, I value human interaction and will do my best to contribute, starting small and working my way up.


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