Sogo shosha are “diversified Japanese trading conglomerates”


The sogo shosha’s business model is unique to Japan. They are a reflection of Japan’s own unique economic development, first during the Meiji Restoration’s period of rapid industrialization and commercialization and then with the rebuilding of Japan’s infrastructure and industry following WWII. As such, the sogo shosha have emerged as multi-faceted enterprises with size, scope and diversity not found in other organizations. Needless to say, this makes them virtually impossible to imitate.

They have traditionally been engaged in the supply of natural and energy resources, intermediate materials, food commodities, industrial machinery and technology to mid and upstream manufacturers as well as in the distribution of an array of consumer products downstream on a global basis. In addition to and sometimes as part of their core trading, they are also involved in logistics, finance and, by combining these functions, large-scale project planning and development.

However, as intermediaries their name is not found on any manufactured products or retail establishments, so little is known about them outside of Japan.

Literal translation of sogo shosha/

= general, all-encompassing or complex
= combine or unify
= commerce or business
= organization or company

To combine a wide-range of products, functions and businesses into one commercial organization = diversified trading conglomerate