Revamping of the Engineering and Construction Departments
The brother-in-law of President Yoshio Obayashi, Senior Vice President Kenshiro Obayashi, led the company’s engineering team. Kenshiro made it his mission to introduce the latest construction practices from overseas, promoting modernization in the organization and technology of both the civil engineering and building construction divisions.
Because of Kenshiro's qualities, talents, and hard work, his legacy remains important to this day. Examples of this legacy are the “Rules for Management of Construction Costs” of 1932 and the Guidelines for On-Site Employees published in 1935.
The Guidelines for On-Site Employees is a four-part handbook for administration and accounting, construction, facilities, and electrical work. Its purpose was to introduce American scientific management methods and systematize construction planning.
For Obayashi, the Guidelines played a critical role in the modernization of construction site management. The underlying principles articulated in the foreword to the Guidelines, the Obayashi Three Pledges of “Quality, Value, and Efficiency,” remain the cornerstone of the company's business to this day. The Obayashi Three Pledges embodied in words the spirit of the company’s founder, Yoshigoro Obayashi.
Expanding to the Asian Mainland
The Showa era (1926-1989) began as Japan recovered from the Great Kanto Earthquake. Following the construction of the Meiji Emperor’s Momoyama Imperial Mausoleum in Fushimi, Obayashi received special commissions for the Tama Imperial Mausoleum in Asakawa, Tokyo, which enshrined the remains of the Taisho Emperor, as well as various projects relating to the Showa Emperor’s enthronement ceremony in Kyoto the following year.
In time, the country prepared to go to war. July 1937 marked the start of the Sino-Japanese War. The National Mobilization Law was promulgated in April 1938. With that, many employees of Obayashi and its suppliers and contractors were drafted into military service, and the company soon found itself facing labor shortages. During this same period, there was a rapid increase in construction work in Manchuria (present-day northeastern China) and northern China. In March 1940, the company established the Manchuria Obayashi Corporation to develop business on the Asian mainland.
In September 1940, Japanese troops moved into northern French Indochina (present-day Vietnam). As a result, Taiwan became increasingly important as a base for Japan’s expansion southward, and Obayashi Corporation’s Taipei Office saw a sudden surge in business. Projects included the construction of the Tien-Leng and Yuanshan power stations, commissioned by the Taiwan Electric Power Company (currently Taipower), along with naval ports and hospitals for the Japanese Imperial Navy, and warehouses for the Japanese Imperial Army.
Wartime Change in Presidents and the End of the War
The year of 1941 marked the 50th anniversary of Obayashi Corporation’s founding. Yoshiro Obayashi, who would later become the president of the company, joined Obayashi Corporation upon graduating from the Department of Architecture at Tokyo Imperial University’s Faculty of Engineering. In 1942, shortly after the outbreak of war between Japan and the United States in December 1941, Yoshiro was called up for military service.
President Yoshio Obayashi died on October 5, 1943, in the midst of the Pacific War. Yoshiro, who had joined a regiment in Wakayama Prefecture, was appointed the third president of the company. The role of chairman of the board of directors was created to improve company management, with Kamezo Shirasugi being the first executive named to fill this role.
With the end of the war in August 1945, President Yoshiro Obayashi was discharged from the army and assumed his duties as president. At war’s end, Obayashi had 3,288 employees, including senior management.
Riding the wave of postwar reconstruction, Obayashi’s business gradually expanded. Postwar Japan became a center of industrial development and urbanization, and the construction industry responded by embarking on a path of modernization and technological innovation.