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Economic overview of Japan

Wissenschaftlicher Aufsatz 2009 16 Seiten

BWL - Allgemeines


Table of contents

I. Introduction

II. Overview of Japan
A. Geography
B. Natural resources and domestic industries
C. Population
1. Overall view
2. The Japanese social structure
D. The political system in Japan

III. Bibliography

I. Introduction

Sony, Toyota, Samurai and Kamikaze – these words don’t seem to have a lot of similarity in common, but they all four symbolize the aggressive Japanese mentality with its urge for expanding the national economy and the nation’s glory.

“In the 1980s, Japan pioneered a new kind of superpower. Tokyo had no army to speak of, no puppet regimes to prop up, and no proxy wars to mind. Just an economy. What made Japan a superpower, more than just a wealthy country, was the way its great firms staked claim to a collective intellectual high ground that left competitors, even in the United States, scrambling to reverse-engineer Japanese successes. Seeking guidance on everything from "quality circles" to "just in time" inventory management, U.S. corporate executives bought stacks of books on Japanese management techniques. The key to Japan's economic ascendance was not ideology, at least not by Cold War standards; but it was a method, it drove the most dynamic economy of the era, and it was indisputably Japanese.[1]

Douglas McGray explains it correctly. The continued success of the Japanese companies at the different world markets and especially at the markets in Europe was absolutely impressing and overwhelming and for some people even frightening. With extremely high growth rates, the country developed in only 30 years from a small and nearly unnoticed industrial nation to one of the few leading economic powers in the world.

With this paper I want to give an overall view on Japan and try to investigate what exactly stands behind this “economic wonder”.

II. Overview of Japan

A. Geography

Many people wonder how a country like Japan, which is so hostile for settlement and peripheral on the globe from the traditional western centres of economy, could become one of the largest and most successful economies in the world.

The Japanese archipelago is situated in the Pacific Ocean at the east side of the Asian Continent. Japan, as we know it, is a nation composed of almost 7000 islands, many of them being quite small. The four main island are Hokkaido (83.408 km²), Honshu (231.014 km²), Shikoku (18.781 km²) and Kyushu (42.144 km²).

The combined total area of the four islands is 377.835 km², slightly larger than Italy or Malaysia and slightly smaller than Morocco or Sweden. The Ryukyu chain of islands is south of the four main Japanese isles. Okinawa is the largest island in the Ryukyu chain[2].

About 66 percent of Japan is forest, and seventy percent of the country is mountainous. A chain of mountains runs down the centre of the nation’s islands with Mount Fuji, at 3.776 meters being the highest mountain in Japan and being considered by many sacred and as the nation’s symbol. Because Japan has this mountainous backbone, most of its population lives along the coasts, especially the eastern coast of the main island of Honshu, from Tokyo to Hiroshima.

There are big regional differences concerning the climatic conditions. Because Japan is from north to south 2400 kilometres “long”, there is on one hand a subtropical influence in Okinawa and on the other hand the ice-cold atmosphere of Hokkaido.[3]

Another aspect is the Japan’s direct confrontation with the forces of nature. Japan has many active volcanoes and also earthquakes and tidal waves, so-called “Tsunamis” are likely to happen. They earthquakes happen quite often, but are harmless in general. Major earthquakes have included the 1995 Kobe Earthquake and the 1923 Tokyo Earthquake.

That fact given, the natural factors had no negative or perhaps even positive effects on the economical situation of the country.

For example, Japan is not anymore peripheral situated. Next to it are the rising economies of East-Asia and Southeast-Asia, which have the last few years always been ranked among the countries with the highest growth-rates and Japan has become just naturally the most important economical partner for them.

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illustration not visible in this excerpt

Source: maps/japanmap.jpg


[1] McGray Douglas (May/Jun 2002), Japan’s gross national cool, The Economist.

[2] Deutsches Institut für Japanstudien (1998), Die Wirtschaft Japans: Strukturen zwischen Kontinuität und Wandel, Berlin, Springer Verlag, p. 2.

[3] Flüchter W. (1998), Geographische Fragestellungen, Strukturen, Probleme, in Pohl, M./Mayer, H. J., Länderbericht Japan, 2. Aufl., Bonn, p.22.


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Economic Japan




Titel: Economic overview of Japan