Japan, since its ancient times, has a culture that sees equal enjoyment of profits or losses among three parties as a virtue.
One of the good examples is the Ohmi merchants’ motto “SAMPO YOSHI (三方よし),” which literally stands for “good for three parties.” By the way, Ohmi is the old name of one of the traditional areas to the east of Kyoto/Japan. “SAMPO YOSHI” specifically means “good for buyers, good for sellers, and good for the society,”and the idea is that business should be performed in such a way that gives high utility (satisfaction) not only for their (sellers’) own profits but also for those of customers and the society.“ This motto came to be widely known to the public back in the early 20th century.
Another example is “SAMPO ICHI-RYOU ZON (三方一両損)”, which is one of the famous classic stories of Rakugo (traditional Japanese comic storytelling).
The story is as follows: A plasterer was walking on the street and happened to find a wallet containing three Ryo’s oval-shaped golden tokens. Ryo is a monetary unit used in Japan until around the end of the 19th century, and one Ryo is approximately equivalent to the current 1,000 USD. The plasterer fortunately found the owner who is a carpenter, and visited the owner to return the money of 3,000 USD value. However, the owner carpenter did not accept it amazingly, claiming that the entire money should have belonged to the plasterer who had found the lost money. Two of them never gave way to each other, when a historically famous judicial arbitrator, Oh-Oka-Echizen, showed up and solved the problem by adding one Ryo token (1,000 USD) from his wallet. The addition made up four Ryo’s (4,000 USD) in total and the fair arbitrator gave two Ryo’s (2,000 USD) to each of the two guys. The logic is that each of the innocent guys (plasterer and carpenter) lost one Ryo out of the three Ryo’s that each of them deserved, while the arbitrator also lost one Ryo by the wacky donation. It sounds strange but the three parties (plasterer, carpenter, and arbitrator) turned out happy anyhow, which is good.
As can be seen in these examples, the idea of “sharing and distributing profits and losses equally among all” has been long rooted in Japanese society. Isn’t it in line with the idea of the modern SDGs?
VP Global Enterprise