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Kouji TOYOSHIMA (Chief Engineer, ZF Product Planning, Mid-Size Vehicle Company, Toyota Motor Corporation)

Director of the OU Toyota Alumni Association, with over 1000 members

When we met up with Kouji TOYOSHIMA, he was chatting with a female office worker he hadn't seen in quite a while. What was interesting about this scene is that the two of them had a name tag holder with the Icho [ginkgo leaf] mark, the official logo of Osaka University, on it. "When I entered Toyota, there were about 300 OU graduates at the company, but now there are over 1000, which also means that there are more OU alumni here who don't know each other. But if someone is wearing the Icho mark, you'll know at first glance that they're an OU alum, which makes it easy to communicate, and work will go smoother as a result." Mr. Toyoshima has continued to show love for his alma mater by serving as the director of the OU Alumni Associate at Toyota.

 

Wanting to make something that will contribute to society, he enters OU School of Engineering

Mr. Toyoshima has liked tinkering with machines since he was a child, and he told us, "I often though things like, 'I wonder what' inside this remote controller?' However, I was often scolded by my parents when I couldn't put it back together."

When asked why he chose OU, he jokingly responded, "Because English, which isn't really my strong suit, wasn't on the second entrance exam..." His real reasoning, however, was that he "wanted to make large moving thing that will contribute to society," so he majored in naval engineering and vibration engineering. "I was serious about my studies, but I performed experiments at night and went home in the morning, so my professors often scolded me." He did, however, lead a fulfilling student life, with hobbies such as driving around with his friends.

Business sense and communication skills obtained through a part-time job

One thing that he feels useful and affected the rest of his life is the part-time job he worked at for 3 years in an attempt to learn how society works. "I worked in a private store that sold fish and vegetables. It was a small store, so I knew all of the merchandise and developed a sense for business. I also was able to develop the communication ability to sell products to middle-aged women in Osaka, well-known in Japan as being tough customers," he said with a smile.

Making cars through the eyes of customers

Ever since he entered Toyota, Mr. Toyoshima has been focused on "making cars through the eyes of customers." Making use of his experience driving to and from school and recreational driving, he is pursuing comfort and convenience as a driver himself.

For example, Mr. Toyoshima, who has broken his tailbone in the past, cannot sit for long periods of time. "I've got a kind of 'bottom sensor' which makes my bottom itch when I sit on a hard seat for a long period of time, so I develop seats based on whether or not I would be able to sit on it for a long period of time and still feel comfortable."

Mr. Toyoshima's motto is "If you can imagine it, you can create it." He has been involved with developing and popularizing EV cars since December 2016, and he continues to roll on toward his new dream of "creating a car that is better for the environment."

 

Having a chance encounter with your dreams depends on the work that you put in

Mr. Toyoshima had some words of encouragement for students at OU, "I want students to be greedy with their goals. Lately, there are straight-A students who flawlessly handle what they're told to do, but I'd rather B-average students who have a real shine to their eye when they are engaged in work that they want to do and enjoy. Having that chance encounter with your dreams depends on how much work you put in. I want students to challenge that 'dream within a dream.'"

• Kouji TOYOSHIMA
Mr. Toyoshima studied naval engineering at Osaka University's School of Engineering, from which he graduated in 1985. He entered Toyota that same year, and after working in design for Corolla and product planning for Lexus LS, he currently serves as chief engineer for the 3rd and 4th general Prius and Prius PHV in ZF, a department that deals with environmentally-friendly automobiles for the next generation. He also heads the SAKURA Project, a project that aims to create a region that is prepared for disaster by spreading the use of automobiles' external power supply.

Company Information

Toyota Motor Corporation (1 Toyota-cho, Toyota City, Aichi, Japan)

Established in 1933 as the automobile division in the Toyoda Automatic Loom Works, Ltd., founded by Sakichi TOYODA, Toyota Motor Corporation was founded in 1937. Toyota currently produces and sells a large variety of automobiles, such as Prius, Camry, and Corolla. A Japanese automobile maker and one of the largest in the world, Toyota was #1 in the world in automobile sales for 4 years straight from 2012 to 2015.

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