An estimated 1.2 million graduates joined Japan’s workforce Apr. 1 as businesses across the country held welcoming ceremonies for new recruits on the first day of fiscal 1997.

While the nation’s economy is said to be showing signs of gradual recovery, many trading firms and banks did not hire female university graduates for auxiliary clerical posts. An increasing number of companies are adopting their own recruiting methods now that an age-old agreement between universities and companies on recruitment has been terminated.

Sony Corp. will not set aside a specific period for this year’s recruitment, while Toyota Motor Corp. is expected to hold a seminar on recruitment every Saturday between late May and early July. At Mitsui & Co.’s ceremonies, President Shigeji Ueshima told 209 new recruits that he strongly hopes for the release of Mitsui employees who are among 72 hostages held by Peruvian rebels at the Japanese ambassador’s residence in Lima. Hirooki Kobayashi, 22, one of the new recruits, said he chose Mitsui despite the possible dangers of working for a trading house.

Ajinomoto Co. President Shunsuke Inamori also told about 100 new recruits in welcoming ceremonies that the more the company’s activities become global, the more likely it will become involved in trouble, calling for an increase in awareness of crisis management. A number of Ajinomoto employees are also being held hostage in Lima.

Referring to the firm’s alleged involvement in a “sokaiya” payoff scandal, Inamori said, “Board members and employees must work together to do our best to wipe the taint from our company.” Prosecutors indicted two Ajinomoto executives and six sokaiya corporate racketeers on Mar. 31 in connection with the scandal.

Yukio Noguchi, 60, chief of Ajinomoto’s general affairs department, and Takao Ishigami, 48, a section chief at the same department, were charged with paying some 6 million yen to racketeers in December so they would not disrupt the company’s annual shareholders’ meeting in June.

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