• Kyodo

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Hiroaki Nakanishi, a former chairman of Japan’s most powerful business lobby who was known for his efforts to revamp long-standing customs in corporate Japan, has died, a source close to the matter said Thursday. He was 75.

Nakanishi, also a former executive chairman of conglomerate Hitachi Ltd., last month stepped down as the 14th chief of the Japan Business Federation, also known as Keidanren, to focus on treatment for lymphoma. He died on Sunday, the source said.

Hiroaki Nakanishi, former Keidanren chairman, speaks in an interview in Tokyo in May 2020. | KYODO
Hiroaki Nakanishi, former Keidanren chairman, speaks in an interview in Tokyo in May 2020. | KYODO

Nakanishi had been hospitalized since July 2020 due to a relapse of the condition, but continued working, attending Keidanren and other meetings online, including as a private-sector member of the government’s Council on Economic and Fiscal Policy.

Under Nakanishi’s leadership, the business federation scrapped in October 2018 its decades-old guidelines for the corporate hiring of new university graduates to allow more flexibility in recruitment amid increasing competition with foreign firms operating in Japan for young, talented workers.

The guidelines stipulated that Keidanren member companies could begin holding job orientation sessions in March for third-year students and start applicant screening processes, including job interviews, in June of the same year when the students are in their fourth year.

Formal job offers are given from October so new recruits can start working in April the following year after graduating in March. In Japan, many companies start their business years in April.

Nakanishi also loosened membership requirements in November 2018 in an effort to encourage more startups to join the federation in order to reinvigorate the business lobby, long dominated by large companies.

His four-year term as Keidanren chief began in May 2018, when he succeeded Sadayuki Sakakibara, but was marred by his battle with the blood cancer.

In 2019, Nakanishi took months off from work to undergo treatment. Doctors declared him in remission in November that year, but his tumor marker levels spiked again in the summer of 2020.

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