Japan Update

Japan in burgundyWhether or not you join us on the Making Things in Japan  Tour 2014 this April, you may be interested in some of the updates about the country that Brad Schmidt and I have been posting on the tour’s site. While the fear of “Japan, Inc.” taking over the world has receded since the 1980s, Japan remains a society that values the art of making things, known as “monozukuri” (物作), hosts a unique concentration of thinkers and inventors in this area, and has developed many brands of manufactured products with worldwide renown.

What is it like today? We plan to keep providing more details, but the following can give you some answers:

  • Today’s Japan in Numbers. Japan is facing the same challenges as other advanced economies, and in particular an aging population receiving high wages. The numbers on Japan’s economy and demographics from the CIA World Factbook and the US Census Bureau bear it out, in comparison with other manufacturing heavyweights, like the US, China, and Germany:
  • Japan’s Manufacturing Sector in Numbers. The numbers on Manufacturing’s share of the Japanese economy show the sector holding steady at about 19% of GDP, 16.9% of the work force, and a value-added per employee of about $97K/year, placing Japan between the US and Germany on all three metrics, and far from China. The numbers are consistent with Japan’s manufacturing sector paying high wages for high productivity and using advanced technology.
  • Manufacturing Trends in Japan. Brad Schmidt, who is based in Tokyo and is in daily contact with Japanese manufacturers, sees a trend for companies to be moving production from China to Japan but only when the market is Japan.
  • The Experience of Visiting Plants in Japan. This is a gallery of pictures from the <120 tours Brad has organized to date, showing the different phases of a plant visit.