Panasonic needs to find where its strength lies

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Kenshi Hirokane

The Yomiuri Shimbun sat down with Kenshi Hirokane, who is a manga artist and a former employee of Panasonic Corp., for his view on the company’s management reform. The following is excerpted from the interview.


To make use of my skills at drawing manga, I got a job at Matsushita Electric Industrial Co. (now Panasonic) which had a reputation for its advertisements, and was assigned to the department I wanted to join. My “Shima Kosaku” series, based on episodes from my experience working there and stories of friends who joined the company at the same time, came about thanks to Matsushita.

During the time I was working there, the great manager Konosuke Matsushita was still alive and well, and I based a character in “Shima Kosaku” with him in mind. Whenever he passed us at the head office, everyone stood at attention and watched in awe as he went by. The company was also very strict, and chastising by superiors would leave even department and section chiefs in tears.

The Matsushita of those days could easily sell products with very little effort. There really was a time when subcontractors would accept jobs with low estimates under the notion that just doing business with Matsushita would raise their status.

In addition to Matsushita, I created a story of Shima’s activities in the wine department, using as a reference Sanyo Electric Co., which had a trading company that handled wine. I wanted to show the wide breadth of the electronics industry, not just one company.

I haven’t had a chance to portray the electronics industry much in Shima Kosaku since the “Chairman” episodes. This is because there has been little positive news. Japan’s electronics industry has completely fallen behind the times.

Today’s Panasonic has no idea where its strengths lie, and its design capabilities are weak. I hope someday Panasonic will come up with at least one product that is second to none.

Kenshi Hirokane, Manga artist

Joined Matsushita Electric Industrial (now Panasonic) in 1970 and resigned in 1973. Made his debut as a manga artist in 1974. Started his nationally popular manga series “Shima Kosaku” in 1983 that continues to this day.