A pioneer of the fashion licensing and textiles business in Japan, Masahiro Okafuji is the chief executive officer and president of Itochu Corporation, a role he has held since April 2010. When Okafuji became president, he vowed to make Itochu the first-ranked sogo shosha (general trading company) in areas other than raw resources.
A graduate of Tokyo University, Okafuji first joined the Japanese trading company in 1974. By 2004, he was moving up the corporate ladder, becoming president of Itochu’s textile division and managing director of Itochu Corp. In 2006, he became senior managing director, and three years later, he was promoted to the position of executive vice president.
China is among one of the countries Okafuji has looked to for growth and profit. In 2014, Itochu entered into a cross-shareholding relationship with the Thai conglomerate Charoen Pokphand (CP) and agreed to invest over $8 billion in the Chinese state-owned CITIC Group in 2015, the largest investment ever made by a Japanese general trading company.
Under Okafuji’s leadership, Itochu rebalanced its portfolio and reduced its reliance on natural resource businesses, shifting towards consumer-oriented non-resource business. The group also saw a change in work culture; Okafuji implemented a general ban on work after 8pm and an across-the-board “lights out” policy at 10pm, significantly reducing the total amount of overtime across the company.