The Forum for Partners in Iran's Marketplace

June 2019, No. 91



Some Impressions from a Recent Trip

Japan, often called the Land of the Rising Sun, with a population of 127 million is considered one of the great powers: its economy being the world’s third-largest by GDP and the fourth largest by international trading. It has a highly educated population and very skilled labour force; a highly developed country with a very high Human Development Index – including the highest life expectancy, and nearly the lowest infant mortality rate in the world; and with significant contributions to modern technology and progress. 

Japan’s Economy

Modern Japan’s economic growth began in the Meiji period from 1868 onwards, embracing both a market economy approach and significant investment in education and small agriculture. Many of todays enterprises are from that time period. The “post-war economic miracle” of Japan (1960’s to 1980’s) witnessed real economic growth rates of above 7% per annum, falling to an average of 3% after the 1980’s.

  • Japan’s economy is now the third largest in the world in terms of GDP, after the United States and China. It also ranks highly for competitiveness and economic freedom.  

  • Japan’s labor force consists of 66 million workers with a low unemployment rate of 4%.

  • Japanese capitalism has many distinct features: lifetime employment and seniority-based career advancement are relatively common - “keiretsu” enterprise; strong management methods including the Toyota model, and Kaizen.

  • Japan’s industrial sector makes up approximately 28% of GDP. It is home to some of the largest and most technologically advanced industries: producers of motor vehicles, electronics, machine tools, steel and non-ferrous metals, ships, textiles, chemicals and processed food industries. Japan is the third largest automobile producer in the world, and is home to Toyota one of the world’s largest automobile companies.

  • Japan’s exports were over $4,000 per capita in the mid 2000’s: main exports to United States (20%), China (17%), South Korea (7%); in transportation equipment, motor vehicles, iron and steel products, semiconductors and auto parts. Japan’s main imports are machinery and equipment, fossil fuels, foodstuffs, chemicals, textiles and raw materials for its industries.

  • Japan has a large cooperative sector, with three of the ten largest cooperatives in the world, including the largest consumer cooperative in the world.

  • Japan’s small agricultural sector is highly subsidized and protected, with government regulations that favor small-scale cultivation instead of large-scale agriculture. Japans agricultural sector accounts for only about 1% of GDP. Only 12% of Japan’s land is suitable for cultivation. Due to this lack of arable land, a system of terraces is used to farm in small areas, resulting in one of the world’s highest levels of crop yields per unit area, with an overall agricultural self-sufficiency rate of about 50% on fewer than 56,000 square kilometres cultivated.

  • Rice accounts for almost all of Japan’s cereal production.

  • Japan accounts for one of the world’s largest fishing fleets and for nearly 15% of the global fishing catch - fourth in the world. It captured 4.8 million tons of fish in 2010, 9.5 million tons in 1990, 9.8 million tons in 1980, 8.5 million tons in 1970, 5.5 million tons in 1960 and 3 million tons in 1950. 

  • The services sector makes up three quarters of GDP.

  • Japan attracted 20 million international tourists in 2015. The Japan Tourism Agency set the initial goal to increase foreign visitors to 20 million in 2020. In 2016, having met the 20 million target, the government has revised up its target to 40 million by 2020 and to 60 million by 2030.  

Interesting things to know about Japan

 That Japan is Japan is no accident. 

  • Their pro-activity for being both hygienic and cleaning their environment is a motto;

  • Students and teachers together undertake 15 minutes of school cleaning everyday – resulting in a trained cohort of people who are both humble and pro-active about cleansing their environment;

  • Any person with a dog also has special cleaning bags for removing any excrements;

  • Municipal street sweepers and cleaners are called “health engineers” – and receive monthly salaries of $5,000 to $8,000, after undergoing written and oral tests;

  • The salary of a teacher is equivalent to $7,500 per month;

  • All teachers at primary school are women, and whom seem more considerate to the pupils than mothers;

  • When school holidays start, children cry;

  • There are no exams from the first to the third grade at school;

  • There is no such concept as failure at school (from grade one to twelve) as the objective is development, ensuring understanding and depth, and the building of character – and not just training or memorizing;

  • The Japanese don’t “save” that much;

  • Inflation is usually zero or negative:

  • Dying at / during work is considered an honour;

  • Failure in ones work is equivalent to death for a manager;

  • There aren’t many villa type houses in Japan;

  • People live in small spaces – circa 60 square meters;

  • Most women don’t work after they are married;

  • Men provide their salaries to their wives and obtain from them their daily expense needs;

  • Japan doesn’t have any significant natural resources (oil, gas, coal, iron-ore, copper…etc.) and is confronted annually with hundreds of earthquakes, and yet this hasn’t prevented the country from being one of the worlds economic powers;

  • Hiroshima managed to become the same city in economic terms within ten years from the time of the atomic bomb;

  • The use of cell phones in trains, restaurants and in all closed spaces is forbidden – and in mobile cell phones  the word “ethics” is used instead of “silent”;

  • One of the education modules from first to sixth grade is “leap towards ethics” in which ethics and interacting with other people is taught;

  • Despite being one of the richest countries in the world, they do not hire domestic labourers, and it’s the mother and father that are responsible for the children and home;

  • In the restaurant everyone only takes as much as they will eat, and at the end nothing remains on their plates – and there is least overeating;

  • Students utilize their toothbrushes after eating food at school, and take care of their health from childhood;

  • The school managers eat the food to be provided to the children half an hour before, so as to ensure health and hygiene – asked why they respond that the children are the future wealth of Japan;

  • The average delay in trains is seven seconds – and the concerned authorities apologise to the people for this at the end of every year;

  • The Japanese are a people that know the value of time, and with precision assess seconds and minutes.

That Japan is Japan is no accident.

One of the secrets to the development success of Japan is a culture that believes there is no need to engage negatively as an enemy with anyone; ones own development is sufficient to overtake others naturally; behaving properly and correctly is what is ultimately required for success.

Indeed, that Japan is Japan is no accident.                    

By: Leilasadat Sanaei


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  June 2019
No. 91