After suffering widespread destruction from World War II, Japan
became the economic phenomenon of the late 20th century. At $4,000
billion, the country’s GDP ranks number two
in the world after the USA. This was achieved through many
decades of steady growth (however this period has now ended –
see below) motivated by judicious application of import
controls and consistently high domestic investment,
together with an aggressive export drive orchestrated
by the strong Ministry of International Trade and Industry
The structure of the domestic economy in Japan revolves around a
group of big multi-product corporations (many have
since become global household names), connected in loose alliances
(known as keiretsu) with finance houses and banks.
The corporations are serviced with components and raw materials
by a myriad of small companies with low overheads and labour costs,
and a top-notch distribution system (many of these lower-level processes
are now also carried out in the ‘tiger economies’
of the Pacific Basin).
The model functioned exquisitely until the early-1990s, when competition
from overseas and excessive lending by the banks started to put
the Japanese economy under a set of pressures to which it has been
unable to respond. The extent of the situation became known initially
with the 1991 property crash and, more spectacularly, with the 1997
Asian financial crisis. Since that time, the economy stagnated,
often struggling to achieve 1 per cent annual growth. Unemployment,
a comparative novelty in a country where jobs were usually guaranteed
for life, has now climbed to six per cent. Successive governments
have not made much more than token and piecemeal efforts at structural
reform. The financial sector continues to function much as before.
The Koizumi government has initiated a set of proposals,
which include deregulation and much-needed reform
as well as a package constructed to jump-start the economy and create
5 million jobs. However, its plans are being weakened by the government’s
poor fiscal position (government debt is 150% of GDP –
in comparison, conditions for Eurozone countries require that the
figure not be higher than 60 per cent).
is the only sector of the economy that doesn't meet Western standards
in terms of management and technology , and remains relatively
inefficient and heavily protected by the government.
(This is a peculiarity of the Japanese electoral system, which allows
a disproportionate number of parliamentary seats to rural areas.)Rice,
potatoes, citrus fruits, and sugar
are the main crops.
The manufacturing industry is still important,
especially vehicles and electronic goods, although
traditional industries such as shipbuilding, coal mining, and steel
are also sizeable and, unlike some of their Western counterparts,
profitable. Overall, industry contributes 35 % of economic
output – more than the world’s other leading
The service sector increased rapidly in the 1980s
as the economy matured and Japan became a leading force in the international
economy. The emphasis in Japanese trade thus changed
from manufactured goods to export of services and ‘invisibles’,
such as finance and insurance.
Japan’s chief trading partner is still the
US but China (PR)
has overtaken Korea (Rep), Taiwan,
Indonesia and several Middle Eastern
oil producers in importance. In the international arena, Japan
is a leading member of the Organisation
of Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD)
and the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation (APEC)
An ample supply of visiting cards printed in English and Japanese
is essential. Cards can be easily printed on arrival with Japanese
translation on the reverse side. Appointments should be booked in
advance and, because of the formality, visits should last more than
a few days. Punctuality is expected. Business discussions are usually
preceded by tea and are normally very formal.
hours: Monday-Friday 09:00-17:00. Some offices are open
The following organisations can provide advice:
Chamber of Commerce, 2nd Floor, Salisbury House, 29 Finsbury
Circus, London EC2M 5QQ, UK (tel: (020) 7628 0069; fax: (020) 7628
Shoko Kaigi-sho (The Japan Chamber of Commerce and Industry),
2-2 Marunouchi 3 Chome, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo 100-0005 (tel: (3) 3283
7824; fax: (3) 3211 4859; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org).
External Trade Organisation), 2-2-5 Toranomon, Minato-ku, Tokyo
105-8466 (tel: (3) 3582 5511; fax: (3) 3587 0219).
The Japan Convention Bureau is a division of the
Japan National Tourist Organisation (see Contact
Addresses section); its Convention Planner’s brochure to Japan
lists thirty-five cities that offer conference facilities including
Hiroshima, Kyoto, Osaka, Nagasaki, , Tokyo and Yokohama. Kyoto has
been one of the most popular locations for international meetings
over the last few years.
For additional information, contact the Japan
Convention Bureau, 2-10-1 Yuraku-cho, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo 100-0006
(tel: (3) 3216 2905; fax: (3) 3216 1978; e-mail: email@example.com).