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 U.S. investor Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway has acquired slightly more than 5% of five Japanese trading houses -- Itochu, Mitsubishi, Mitsui, Sumitomo and Marubeni.    © Nikkei montage/Source photo by Getty Images
Business Spotlight

Warren Buffett's Japan trade: The changing world of 'sogo shosha'

Mitsubishi and its fellow trading houses are trying to meet digital challenges

KOJI NOZAWA and MITSURU OBE, Nikkei staff writers | Japan

TOKYO -- At a FamilyMart convenience store in Tokyo, shoppers grab fresh bananas and pay using their smartphones. A familiar scene, but few would know that one company is orchestrating almost the entire transaction -- from growing the bananas to owning the store and even developing the smartphone payment system.

The company, Itochu, is one of Japan's venerable "sogo shosha," or trading houses -- a quintessential feature of the country's corporate landscape, sprawling across dozens of business sectors.

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