This is Part 11 of a series on Toyota Motor Corp.'s extensive involvement in sports.
* * *
Toyota Industries Corp.'s women's track and field team is one of the most successful squads in Japan, with victory in the 2008 all-Japan women's "ekiden" race for corporate teams among its honors.
But former manager Hiroshi Hirabayashi says there has long been concern about the team's relationship with the ordinary workers it is supposed to represent.
"The runners were treated more like customers at their offices (because they rarely worked with their colleagues). Some employees came to cheer on the team, but there wasn't company-wide support. We had always been frustrated about that," he says.
Since its founding in 2001, the team, coached by Sakura Athlete Club's Yoshio Koide, had been based in Sakura, Chiba Prefecture. Its runners had notionally belonged to the Tokyo branch office and only actually reported to the office only a few times a year.
In April this year, that structure was shaken up with a move to Kariya, Aichi Prefecture, where Toyota Industries has its head office.
As well as reducing costs, Toyota Industries Well Support President Yasuyoshi Asakura says: "We wanted to go back to our original concept of building a sense of unity among employees."
The sports teams of Toyota Motor Corp. and of its affiliates have strong ties. Group firms hold regular matches against the parent firm's corporate teams and information-sharing meetings are held regularly. Following the parent firm's example, Toyota Industries transferred its athletes to departments across the company and the runners began working in their offices three times a week.
Yuriko Kobayashi, who competed in the women's 5,000-meter race at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, is now working at a computer-based product-inspection division because she wanted to work in an arm of the company that made use of her college major in math.
On Oct. 16, the Toyota Industries women's running team won a regional ekiden race for corporate teams, in which it was participating for the first time. About 400 people from the company came to cheer them on, far more than the support the team had enjoyed prior to its move to Aichi.
- « Prev
- Next »