Top 10 Japanese Exporters

Manufacturing and exports have long been the lifeblood of the Japanese economy. Here’s a look at the ten biggest Japanese exporters.

10. Mitsui & Co.

Mitsui & Co. is one of Japan’s sogo shosha, or general trading companies. These companies tend to be involved in all sorts of business activities, from sales and services, to heavy manufacturing. Mitsui & Co. isn’t the biggest of the sogo shosha overall, but it is one of those more heavily involved in manufacturing and exports. They’re best known overseas for their involvement in the export of steel products and materials.

9. Mitsubishi

Mitsubishi has perhaps the greatest overseas name recognition of the sogo shosha, largely thanks to its efforts in the auto and electronics industries. If you’ve ever been to Japan you’ve probably got some idea as to just how many things Mitsubishi has its hands in, from cars and trucks, to gas stations and stationery. Although it’s gradually wound down its auto sales business overseas, Mitsubishi remains a big exporter, most notably in the areas chemicals and heavy machinery.

8. Fujitsu

Though now focused largely on IT services and consulting, Fujitsu is still a major manufacturer of products in a few different areas. Fujitsu’s PC sales business has declined over the years, but their notebook sales remain strong, and they continue to produce things like servers, storage systems, monitors, and computer parts and accessories.

7. Toshiba

Toshiba is one of Japan’s largest and most historic companies, with roots in the late 19th century. Today the company is a major player in several different sectors. Best known among consumers for its TVs and laptops, Toshiba is also an exporter of semiconductors, printer parts, and power generation technology.

6. Sony

One of the world’s largest entertainment conglomerates, Sony remains one of Japan’s biggest exporters of products and parts, primarily of electronics. Sony still does about half of its production in Japan, most of which is then exported overseas. Among the Sony products entirely or partially made in Japan today are TVs, cameras, and PCs and computer parts such as semiconductors and batteries.

5. Panasonic

Although second to Sony in terms of worldwide brand name recognition, Panasonic is actually Japan’s largest electronics company thanks to its success as a manufacturer and exporter of electric components (which is where Panasonic, then using the National brand name, got its start) and semiconductors. In addition to its eponymous television, power tool, camera, telephone and appliance manufacturing operations, Panasonic also owns the Sanyo and Technics brands.

4. Nissan

The third largest Japanese car manufacturer, Nissan has possibly the most tumultuous history. The company looked to be on its way to extinction by the 1990s and was forced to enter into a partnership with Renault in 1999. Its subsequent turnaround under CEO Carlos Ghosn is the stuff of legends. These days Nissan is doing pretty well, although sales of its Infiniti luxury line continues to lag behind those of Lexus and Acura. Nissan also produces marine equipment in partnership with Tohatsu.

3. Hitachi

Hitachi is perhaps best known to consumers as a relatively minor player in home electronics, so it’s probably a surprise to see it so high on the list. Consumer electronics are only a small part of Hitachi’s overall operations, though. In addition to components for electronics, Hitachi also exports medical equipment, power systems, heavy machinery, auto parts, rail products and vehicles, elevators and escalators, ATMs, data storage devices, batteries, appliances, power tools, and more.

2. Honda

Honda is the world’s sixth largest auto manufacturer, and number two out of Japan. Like the other Japanese car makers, Honda now produces many of its products either partially or entirely in other countries, but its largest individual facilities are still located in Japan. In addition to some of its cars, the bulk of Honda’s motorcycle and ATV manufacturing business has remained in Japan.

1. Toyota

The world’s #1 automaker is also Japan’s leading exporter in terms of sales. Although Toyota has gradually shifted some of its auto manufacturing operations overseas, many of its parts and finished vehicles continue to be produced in Japan for export, including the entire Lexus line. With a massive lead over everybody else, Toyota looks set to remain Japan’s number one exporter for the foreseeable future.

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