Photo/IllutrationChinese speakers at Itochu Corp. celebrate their proficiency in the language at an event held April 13 at the company's Tokyo headquarters in Minato Ward. (Dai Narusawa)

  • Photo/Illustraion

With its extensive business reach in China, Itochu Corp. likes to boast that it probably has more employees able to converse in Chinese than any other company in Japan.

The general trading company decided it needed more Chinese speakers and bolstered a language training program from fiscal 2015 to achieve the goal. It has paid all lesson fees and held related seminars.

Itochu says that 1,043 employees are now proficient in the language.

“Even if you look around the country, probably there is no other company that has 1,000 employees with Chinese proficiency,” said Masahiro Okafuji, chairman and CEO of Itochu, during an event held at its Tokyo headquarters in Minato Ward on April 13 to celebrate the achievement.

“I am proud of you all,” Okafuji told them.

A live satellite feed beamed Okafuji's speech to employees in Osaka and Shanghai.

The training program almost tripled the number of employees who can converse in Chinese.

Around 30 percent of those who are considered main career track employees at Itochu were issued a “human resource with Chinese proficiency” certification by the company.

Half of the certified employees can handle daily conversation in Chinese, while the remainder have acquired a higher level of linguistic ability.

At the Tokyo event to celebrate their accomplishment, the staff members raised toasts with glasses of Shaoxing rice wine and ate Peking duck. Most of the presenters spoke in Chinese.

Itochu has rapidly expanded its business activities in China. The amount of its outstanding investment in the country soared to 848.7 billion yen ($7.8 billion) as of autumn 2017, compared with 128.9 billion yen in spring 2010.