• Kyodo, Jiji

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The Japan Business Federation said Monday Masakazu Tokura, chairman of Sumitomo Chemical Co., will replace Hiroaki Nakanishi as the head of a powerful business lobby on June 1, due to Nakanishi’s ongoing battle with lymphoma.

Tokura, 70, will assume the post when the lobby, also known as Keidanren, holds a regular general meeting next month.

Nakanishi, 75, who is also executive chairman of industrial conglomerate Hitachi Ltd., has been hospitalized since last July due to a recurrence of lymphoma but had continued working remotely.

Tokura, a native of Hyogo Prefecture and a graduate of the University of Tokyo, became president of Sumitomo Chemical in 2011 and chairman of the company in 2019.

Tokura currently serves as vice chair of Keidanren’s Board of Councillors. He was vice chair of the group from 2015 to 2019.

Nakanishi’s departure will be the first time a Keidanren chairman has stepped down before the end of their term since the group was established, in 2002, through a merger of two major business lobbies.

Nakanishi was first hospitalized in May 2019 to receive treatment for blood cancer, after starting his four-year term as Keidanren chief in May 2018. He took several months off from work to undergo treatment, and doctors said he had entered remission in November 2019.

Since being admitted to hospital again in July, Nakanishi has canceled a number of news conferences. The business lobby abruptly called off a news conference in April, saying he was suffering from side effects of his anti-cancer drug treatment.

Under Nakanishi’s leadership, Keidanren scrapped its decades-old guidelines for the mass recruitment of new university graduates by major companies. He also eased conditions for startups to join the business lobby, and promoted digitalization among Japanese firms following the outbreak of the novel coronavirus pandemic.

In March, the business lobby appointed Tomoko Namba, founder and chairwoman of online service provider DeNA Co., as the first female vice chair in its 75-year history.

In 2019, Nakanishi called for an end to the practice of Japanese industry meeting a wage increase request from the government. He has also pushed the “Society 5.0” concept of solving social issues through digital technology innovation.

Nakanishi compiled a new growth strategy in November that focuses on various stakeholders in order to realize sustainable capitalism. He has also supported the government’s goal of achieving a carbon-free society.

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