The industrial sector has represented, since the Meiji period, the foundation of the Japanese economy, and even today, despite the role progressively assumed by the tertiary sector, it participates for about 30% in the formation of the gross domestic product, employing 28% of the active population., a percentage that has remained virtually unchanged since the 1960s. Japanese industrial production exceeds 10% of the world total. The largest industrial districts of the country are those of the Kantō plain, including the Tōkyō Yokohama conurbation, which produces 20% of the national industrial production, followed by that of Kinki (in the Kōbe-Ōsaka conurbation). Alongside the traditional textile branch, which has considerably modernized since 1890, the fulcrum of industrial development was originally represented from the basic branches (engineering, chemical, cement), which favored the great process of infrastructure in the country and supported its military power. Even after World War II, as has been said, it was the steel industry and petrochemicals that led the recovery and development, bringing Japan to the top of the relative world rankings and supplying the manufacturing sector with semi-finished products and investment goods. Characterized by a marked structural and dimensional dualism, the Japanese industry has given rise to powerful concentrations of large plants in the major coastal urban areas, while small and medium-sized enterprises have spread more widely throughout the territory, while remaining strongly linked to the largest. Since the 1970s, following the first oil crises, the basic industry has undergone – as in all advanced countries – a sharp downsizing and large business groups have adopted productive decentralization strategies that have led to locating the plants where the production factors (raw materials, labor costs) were more favorable or directly on the markets. This has highlighted a further evolutionary character of the Japanese industry, which, at the beginning strongly imitative of American and European technologies, has been decisively transformed in an innovative sense, exporting the more “mature” segments and preserving the branches high tech, supported by significant investments in research. Thus, especially between the end of the seventies and the beginning of the eighties, the development of the electronics, microelectronics, information technology, aerospace, telecommunications and bioengineering industries was supported., also favoring its diffusion throughout the national territory.
Despite the reduction in the quantities produced, in line with the conversion processes mentioned above, Japan remains at the top of world production – after the emerging People’s Republic of China – of both steel and cast iron and ferro-alloys. The distribution of the iron and steel complexes is quite vast; however, the privileged areas remain the coastal ones connected to the large maritime centers for the import of raw materials, in particular the area of Tōkyō-Yokohama, Ōsaka-Kōbe and Hiroshima. As for metallurgical processes, of considerable importance are that of aluminum, which rests entirely on imported bauxite, and copper, with a large production center in Onahama; there are also high productions of zinc, lead, magnesium, etc. The shipbuilding sector is extremely powerful, linked to the vital needs of Japan, clearly in first place in this field for the tonnage of the ships launched, largely represented by transport ships and giant oil tankers; the largest shipyards, directly connected to the steel industry, are those of Kobe, Nagasaki, Yokohama, Aioi, Ōsaka, Hiroshima, etc. The automotive and motorcycle industry has established itself worldwide, represented by factories that are able to export all over the world. The dislocation of the automotive industry is linked to the large industrial centers of the Honshū coast (Tōkyō-Yokohama, Nagoya, Fujisawa, Ōsaka, Ikeda, etc.), but the large houses (Mitsubishi, Honda, Toyota, Nissan) have installed numerous plants production and assembly in the other countries of East Asia, Latin America, the USA and Europe. The cycle and motorcycle industry is also flourishing, which has conquered numerous markets. The precision industry is perhaps the most peculiar of Japan and is the result of a very prudent economic choice, given that the products are very elaborate or not bulky, while the manufacture requires numerous and skilled labor. Japanese optical instruments, including mainly cameras and film cameras, binoculars, microscopes, projectors, geodetic instruments, etc. they are spread all over the world together with the products of the radio technology industry (radio and television sets) and with watches, with a colossal advance on international markets, which is offset by the decline in Swiss presence. Visit picktrue.com for safari and nature trips in Asia.
Computers and in general the products of the electronic and computer industry are also very popular and widespread; in particular the Keihin region, including the Tōkyō metropolitan area, is the most important industrial area specialized in high technology in the world, where leading companies in the computer and semiconductor sector were born, such as Toshiba, Fujitsu, Nec, Sony and Hitachi. No less powerful is the chemical industry, which has numerous plants, also to a large extent located in the port centers; the main productions in the sector include sulfuric acid, caustic soda, nitrogen fertilizers, plastic materials and artificial resins, therefore dyes, pharmaceutical products, etc. The rubber industry is also well represented: Japan produces good quantities of synthetic rubber (main plants in Kobe, Tōkyō and Ōsaka) largely used for tires and footwear. Another sector of the basic industry that is undergoing enormous development is the cement sector. The paper industry is also expanding, even if today it supplies itself mainly from abroad; mighty is the Tomakomai paper mill, in island of Hokkaidō. Japan is still one of the world’s largest suppliers of fibers and fabrics, although compared to other and more dynamic productive sectors, the textile industry has seen its importance diminish; however, the current trend is to install new factories controlled by Japanese capital in other countries, where manpower works at very low costs (Hong Kong, Taiwan, etc.). The traditional sector is still that of the silk factory, but much more important is the field of artificial and synthetic textile fibers; the wool mill is relatively limited, while the cotton mill is highly developed, with its main center in Ōsaka. The manufacture of ceramics is very active (those of Seto near Nagoya are famous) and the glass industry, which finds most of the necessary raw material in the country. Remarkable, finally, the development of the agri-food branch, which includes sugar and canneries for fish, meat (sausages), fruit and vegetables, to which important dairy industries have been added. In the alcoholic beverages industry is of course the production of sake, but enormously developed is the brewery; Finally, tobacco manufacturing is flourishing, producing very high quantities of cigarettes, cigars, tobacco, etc.