Takanori Azuma, Deputy Chief Officer of the General Administration & Human Resources Group, appeared as a guest on Toyota Times Athletes Now, which was broadcast live (in Japanese) on October 13. With the theme of “Why does President Akio Toyoda attend sporting events in person?”, the conversation centered on the relationship between Toyota and its sports clubs.
At present, there are seven representative sports clubs and 26 non-competitive sports clubs at Toyota. These clubs are supported by the General Administration & Human Resources Group, because the strenuous efforts of their members are the driving force in creating both energy and a sense of unity within the company. Furthermore, the General Administration & Human Resources Group keeps a firm eye on their second and third careers of every club player by considering how they can capitalize on their experience and personality.
In response to anchor Kyonosuke Morita’s question, “Why does President Toyoda attend sporting events in person?”, Azuma replied, “The fact that President Toyoda himself is an athlete [he represented Japan in field hockey in his youth] explains a lot.” Azuma continued, “I think the sports clubs always energize him. And he empathizes with their spirit of never giving up and of seeing things through to the end as well as of playing for someone else and for the team.”
The show also included photographs of Akio cheering on the baseball team together with employees in non-VIP seats at Tokyo Dome, as well as the scene when he visited the locker room to rouse the players’ spirits after they lost that game. It was also revealed that Akio goes so far as to visit training venues and experience training with the players.
In addition to this, the show featured the history of Toyota’s sports clubs, including the fact that the track and field club came into being in 1937, the same year that Toyota Motor was established. Azuma said, “There has always been a unity in taking on challenges between the vehicle manufacturing side of Toyota and its sports clubs.”
Azuma himself also likes sports, to the extent that every weekend he visits various locations to see the club games and practice sessions. “When I go to the sports center the day after a game, the players who weren’t selected to play are practicing by themselves as they convert their disappointment into motivation. Seeing that kind of scene really moves you,” Azuma said.
Azuma can recall in detail the results and form of various sports clubs and teams – for example the rugby, baseball, and women’s softball clubs – and in the show, he commented on behind-the-scenes stories with a sense of intimacy. Viewers also gained an insight into how Azuma learns the joy and disappointment that players feel when they win or lose. Learning how this is also brought back to the development of human resources at Toyota, viewers gave many comments that show their empathy, for example, “Now I understand that sports are related to ‘making people’!” and “I can see that Azuma is communicating closely with players on a daily basis.”
Besides this, Kento Nakamura – who is the cleanup hitter for Toyota and was selected as third pick by Hiroshima Toyo Carp in the recent NPB draft – joined the show as an online guest. There was also the point at which Akio, who was watching the show online, joined in with a comment of his own, putting Nakamura on the spot by asking for a live demonstration of his singing skills.
Toyota Times Athletes Now is broadcast live every Wednesday from noon JST (in Japanese, later followed by a version with English subtitles).