Sogo Shosha

Sogo Shosha

Summary of Sogo Shosha

A Japanese general trading company. Customarily, the term is used in connection with the largest of such companies. According to the Trade Business Statistics report for 1981 issued by the Japanese Ministry of International Trade and Industry, there are over 8,500 trading companies operating in Japan. The nine sogo shosha, however, account in the aggregate for over 40 percent of all Japanese exports, and over 47 percent of all imports. For the twelve month period ending March 1982, the sogo shosha reported sales as follows:


Company (in trillion yen)

Mitsubishi 14.7

Mitsui 13.2

C. Itoh 12.3

Marubeni 11.5

Sumitomo 11.0

Nissho-Iwai 7.4

Tomen 3.7

Kanematsu-Gosho 3.3

Nichimen 2.9

Sales data are derived from company annual reports which, in accordance with Japanese law, must be published.

(Main Author: William J. Miller)

Sogo Shosha in relation with International Trade

In the context of trade organizations, Christopher Mark (1993) provided the following definition of Sogo Shosha: A Japanese trading company. The term is customarily applied to the nine largest of such enterprises –i.e., Mitsui and Company, Sumitomo Corporation, C. Itoh and Company, Mitsubishi Corporation, Marubeni Corporation, Nissho Iwai, Tomen, .Kanematsu-Gosho, and Nichimen. A trading company may often function as leader of a keiretsu, but it is a separate entity .Most of Japan's foreign trade is done through trading companies; the nine sogo shoshas handle nearly half of Japanese imports and exports, and serve as screening mechanisms for imports that might be damaging to members of a keiretsu.

Sogo Shosha in International Trade

Meaning of Sogo Shosha, according to the Dictionary of International Trade (Global Negotiator): In Japan, this term means “general trading company,” Unlike typical Western trading companies and Japan's some 9,000 other trading companies, the sogo shoshas are distinguished by their international networks, their trade of numerous commodities, and their large market shares. For example, a sogo shosha may control about 10 percent of Japan's trade, handle a range of 10,000 to 20,000 products including food, clothing, automobiles, and appliances, and have a network of over 200 offices throughout the world. The sogo shosha are also characterized by their ability to issue large volumes of credit and to help small manufacturers buy and sell goods in the global market. These trading companies serve as intermediaries for distribution at home and abroad for Japanese companies. The major sogo shosha include Mitsubishi, Mitsui, C. Itoh, Sumitomo, Marubeni, Nichimen, Kanematsu-Gosho, and Nisso Iwai Corp. See trading company.