Johnson Matthey Japan; 200th Anniversary

Aug. 8, 2017


In 1817, Percival Norton Johnson set up a gold assaying business in London. From these humble beginnings, Johnson partnered with George Matthey and became official assayers to the Bank of England in the mid- 19thcentury.

Little did they know that, two centuries later, their business is stronger than ever and more than 13,000 of their company’s employees would be live streaming the global celebrations of the 200th anniversary of the founding of the enterprise by Mr. Johnson and Mr. Matthey.

Today, this company, known as Johnson Matthey, has diversified beyond just being assayers and now has four Sectors; Clean Air, Efficient Natural Resources, Health and New Markets.

On July 19, they held the 200th anniversary celebrations at the Johnson Matthey Japan factory site in Tochigi, where emission control catalysts for low or zero emission transport are manufactured. The Asia Region Technical Centre is also based there.

On the special day, Robert MacLeod, Chief Executive of Johnson Matthey, flew in from the UK for a formal party with a distinct Japanese flavour. He was joined by Sally Jones, Director of Investor Relations & Corporate Communications. Japan was the first site worldwide to hold the celebrations. This event was streamed live via intranet to all sites and the parties “followed the sun” to sites in Asia, Europe, Africa, South America and finishing on the North American continent in San Diego.

Back in the blazing hot sun of Japan, the flag raising ceremony kicked off proceedings, accompanied by the national anthems of Japan and United Kingdom. Robert, joined by Muneo Kimura, Chairman of Johnson Matthey Japan, planted a laurel tree, to signify future success. The outdoor ceremony was rounded off by breaking open a barrel of sake, known as kagami biraki (鏡開き). Unfortunately, though, consumption was left until the weekend!

Moving indoors to escape the heat, speeches by distinguished guests were delivered, including from Chris Heffer, Director of Trade and Investment at the British Embassy, Tokyo. Chris delivered his message in Japanese, before reading out a warm message of congratulations from David Bickle, BCCJ President.

Over the next 200 years, no doubt the world will change in many ways. But there is a chance, perhaps, that JM’s associates will be celebrating the 400th anniversary? Here’s to the future!

As a side note, every year the Johnson Matthey management team travels to the Tohoku area to lay flowers from the company’s employees as a way of marking our respect in memory of those who have been irreversibly affected by the earthquake and tsunami in March 2011. In keeping with the company’s legacy and continuing support for the people of northern Japan, following the 200th anniversary they announced a project to donate 15 Sakura trees in support of the Sakura Namiki Network in these areas of Tohoku. The trees will be planted between January and March of 2018, to protect the safety of residents and to keep the memory of the disaster alive for the next century and beyond.

More information about Johnson Matthey's global celebrations HERE

More information about the Sakura Namiki Network HERE