Takeda’s New Headquarters: In Pursuit of Tradition and Innovation


PhotographySeiichi Saito TextKaori Iwasaki Hair & Make-upMiho Hamaya

Takeda Pharmaceutical Company Limited, one of Japan’s leading and most long-established companies, active in 70 countries and regions, recently opened its new Global Headquarters in Tokyo. We asked the person in charge of the move to the new building about the changes that Takeda is implementing in its working practices, as well as the inspirations incorporated in the design.

The interior of LIFE CAFÉ enables employees to enjoy a space that exudes the warmth of wooden surfaces, together with the fresh, clean feeling of stainless steel. The room can be used for multiple purposes, from meals to meetings.

The warmth of the wooden interior and a soft, natural light infuse the wide-open floors. The large windows that form the exterior walls provide a grand vista of the skies over Tokyo and its cityscape, including TOKYO SKYTREE. Following lunch, the afternoon hours see people enjoying a little free time in the employee-only cafeteria, LIFE CAFÉ, on the 20th floor. Some sit on their own, working on their laptops facing the windows, while others are in groups, having informal meetings. Of course, some employees are simply enjoying a late lunch.

237 years since its founding, Takeda Pharmaceutical Company Limited now operates in more than 70 countries around the world. Its new base for those activities—Takeda Global Headquarters—opened this summer in Nihombashi, Tokyo. LIFE CAFÉ is a venue that symbolises the innovations in work styles that Takeda has sought, with the construction of the new head office providing an opportunity to implement them.

‘Through the building’s construction, I wanted to institute a revolution in our employees’ working habits, rather than making it just another move to a new address,’ says Yasuhiro Fukutomi, the project leader who handled the transition. ‘What’s important is to create an environment where employees can get their work done in an energised manner, while at the same time having a building that expresses the originality of the company’.

The aim was to construct not just another typical new building, but one that was uniquely ‘Takeda-like’. An inspired response to that request for the design of the building space came from the creative director Kashiwa Sato, who came up with the ‘life force’ design concept after numerous conversations with Takeda’s CEO, Christophe Weber.

Takeda’s CEO Christophe Weber (left) and Creative Director Kashiwa Sato (right).

Yasuhiro Fukutomi, Head of Corporate Strategy and the CEO Office, who we interviewed about the project.

Fukutomi says, ‘Although we are a Japanese company with a long history, we are continuing to strengthen our global presence. In addition to being guided by Japanese traditions and propelled by energy that leads to further corporate growth, our identity as a pharmaceutical company is also one of ‘being involved with life’. Kashiwa Sato has been able to express Takeda’s unique identity through the concept of ‘life force”.

In many places throughout the building, the walls feature installation art in the form of precisely cut and geometrically aligned pieces of wood, arranged in various patterns. In the entrance to the building, these artworks symbolise the Japanese characters for ‘water’ and ‘light’—水 and 光—as they provide the source of all life. The reception area on the fourth floor features an interior design highlighting the characters for ‘earth’ and ‘wood’—土 and 木—representing the healthy growth of the company. Meanwhile, the conference room is adorned with the characters for ‘future’—未来—while the interior of LIFE CAFÉ features stylised typography for the words ‘life’—生—and ‘connections’—絆.

Fukutomi continues, ‘LIFE CAFÉ remains open from morning to evening. Before we moved to this building, our old cafeteria was only accessible to employees for a few hours around noontime. Recently, an increasing number of employees are spending time doing a little work or studying in the café before heading to their desks. We have provided many of these kinds of places throughout the new headquarters, allowing them to work away from their desks’.

The reception area on the fourth floor is graced by natural wooden benches made entirely from native Japanese cypress. The greenery in the room, suggestive of ‘life force’, adds further energy to the space. The design on the wall’s surface is based on the Japanese characters for 'soil' and 'tree'—土 and 木.

The surfaces of the walls and lighting in the Life Café are decorated with the characters for 'person', 'future' and 'life' —人, 未来, and 生 (left to right). Many other examples of Japanese characters, all a part of the creative concept developed by creative director Kashiwa Sato, are found throughout the building.

Fukutomi says that a change of pace or mood can lead to more creative work. While Takeda already had a flex-time system, with employees also able to work from home, the transition to the new building has been accompanied by the company’s wholehearted promotion of highly flexible working arrangements, including telecommuting, that are free from restraints. Takeda, as a growing global company, now welcomes a wide variety of employees in terms of both nationality and working styles. The message that it wants to convey as it moves towards the future is already engraved in its new headquarters building.