Compared to the western industrialized countries, Japan is considered to be a late developer in the industrialization of its economy, but since the mid-1970s at the latest, Japan’s industry has been among the most competitive in the world. This applies in particular to the steel industry, shipbuilding, motor vehicle production as well as machine tool construction and the electronics industry, i.e. those branches that have a high export share. Around 20% of global production capacities in the field of electronics and information and communication technology are in Japan; The country has a top position in the field of industrial automats and robots. Japan also occupies a leading position in the chemical industry, especially pre-products for the high-tech sector, as well as in environmental and energy technology. Since the large industrial companies in their own country lack an even remotely adequate raw material base, they are oriented towards imports and exports. The ports on the Pacific side are therefore important locations for light and heavy industry. The industrial belt follows from Tokyo Nagoya , Kyōto , Osaka , continues in the coastal area of the Inland Sea and extends over North Kyūshū, Fukuoka and Sasebo to Nagasaki. The manufacturing industry employs 25.6% of the workforce; its share in GDP is 29.3%.
Mining has a subordinate position in Japan and has now been almost completely given up in the course of structural policy. In 2002, the last coal mine on Hokkaidō was closed. Apart from coal, Japan has only minor mineral resources (zinc, copper, limestone), and most of its raw material requirements have to be imported. The country only has sufficient quantities of limestone (for the cement industry) and pyrite (for the production of sulfuric acid).
As a country starting with letter J according to Countryaah.com, Japan relies heavily on imports for its energy supply; over 90% of the primary energy requirement has to be imported. The most important energy source for electricity generation is natural gas (share 27.5%), followed by hard coal (26.9%), until 2011 nuclear energy (26.9%) and crude oil (7%); hydropower accounts for 6.9%. Since the 1973 oil crisis, Japan has been trying to reduce its dependency on imports and has relied primarily on nuclear power for electricity generation (2012: 936 billion KWh). In 2011, 17 nuclear power plants with a total of 54 reactor blocks were connected to the grid, generating around 30% of the electricity. After the Fukushima disaster In March 2011, all nuclear power plants were initially shut down, but as early as June 2012 the government planned to put two reactors into operation at the Ohi nuclear power plant on the west coast of Honshū against popular protests. Japan currently has 48 nuclear reactors that are due to come back online after a safety review. The start was made in August 2015 at the Sendai nuclear power plant in the southwest of Kyushu; eight more reactors followed by the end of 2018.
The transport infrastructure in Japan is relatively well developed despite the sometimes difficult geographical conditions. The roads not only connect the economic centers, but also extend to the peripheral regions in the north of Honshū and on the island of Kyūshū in the south. In long-distance passenger transport, the importance of motor vehicles is steadily increasing. Most of the goods traffic also takes place on the road. The expansion of the road network could not keep up with the increase in motor vehicles, so that traffic jams continue to occur in high numbers. The traffic volume is concentrated in the metropolitan areas of Tokyo, Osaka and Nagoya. Half of the freight traffic and two thirds of the passenger traffic move on only 28% of the total area of Japan. The latter would not be manageable without efficient rail transport in local public transport. In Tokyo, Osaka, Nagoya, Kobe, Sapporo, Yokohama, Fukuoka, Sendai and Kyoto there are subways for inner-city traffic.
The railroad does not play a role in freight traffic, but it does play a role in long-distance passenger traffic and transports around 24 billion passengers a year. The Shinkansen high-speed train has been offering comfortable connections between major cities that have been gradually expanded since 1964. The longest connection has existed since 1975 between Tokyo and Hakata on Kyūshū with a length of 1,180 km, in the north the Shinkansen lines extend to Aomori and Niigata. After completion (1988) of the Seikan tunnel between the islands of Honshū and Hokkaidō, the travel time from Tokyo to Sapporo was reduced from 22 to 15 hours. A Shinkansen connection to Nagano was established for the 1998 Winter Olympicsbuilt, opened a 128 km long route on Kyūshū at the beginning of 2004. Apart from the Shinkansen routes, the seven successor companies of the former state railway (JNR: Japanese National Railways), which was privatized in 1987, suffer from declining revenues and high costs.
In 2016, the Japanese merchant fleet comprised 3,999 ships with a total of 21.5 million GT. Shipping and shipbuilding have faced considerable difficulties in recent years. The importance of the sea ports also decreased. The most important ports are Nagoya, Chiba , Yokohama , Kitakyushu, Osaka and Kobe as well as the capital Tokyo.
The deregulation of air travel in the mid-1990s resulted in an increase in domestic passenger transport as competition created new providers and price cuts. The market continues to be dominated by the major airlines All Nippon Airways (ANA) and Japan Air Lines (JAL). The largest international airports are Narita International Airport near Tokyo and Kansai International Airport in Osaka Bay, which opened in 1994 as the world’s first offshore airport. The largest number of passengers (2016: 80.1 million) goes to Tokyo-Haneda Airport, which mainly handles domestic Japanese air traffic. The opening of international airports in Nagoya (2005) and Kobe (2006) continues to intensify domestic Japanese competition.