The modern industry of Japan, second in the world for production value, was born in the Meiji era (1868), with a strong strategic connotation. The process was led by the state and financed by loans from the ‘merchant princes’ and by land tax paid by the agricultural masses. Private enterprises appeared later, benefiting greatly from the acquisition of new industries created by the state. Banking and merchant companies gathered in cartels ( zaibatsu ), gaining enormous influence on the government that then characterized Japanese politics until the Second World War. The zaibatsu, dissolved by the Americans for their support for Japanese imperialism (1945), are resurrected in the form of the keiretsuka, concentrating only on economic action, but maintaining the same structure of cross-shareholdings around a banking-insurance core. The Japanese economic backbone also counts numerous small and medium-sized enterprises, largely dedicated to the production of semi-finished products. In its post-war recovery, the Japanese industrial economy has enjoyed undoubted advantages: an abundance of cheap yet well-trained workforce; availability of good ports; rational organization of businesses; constantly updated technologies thanks to large investments in research and lively exchanges with foreign countries. Given the scarcity of raw materials and the absolute inadequacy of energy sources (for which it totally depended on imports), it was equipped, especially after the 1973 oil crisis, of a network of nuclear power plants which is the third in the world (55 in 2008, which produce about 30% of electricity); however, it remains the second largest oil importer in the world, for the supply of which China and the countries of East Asia are increasingly important.
Among manufacturing, the primacy of textiles has historically been followed by that of heavy industries, which however in the years between the two millennia seems to have entered the final phase due to competition from emerging Asian countries. The steel industry, concentrated near several of the major ports of the islands of Kyushu, Hokkaido and especially Honshu, only thanks to enormous efforts has again exceeded the production of 100 million tons, thus securing the third place in the world. Aluminum metallurgy and oil refineries are also gathering along the coastal areas of Honshu to reduce transportation costs. Japanese petrochemicals have long dominated the world stage and maintains important positions for the production of superphosphates, dyes and rubbers. The cement and glass factories are highly developed. The shipbuilding industry, after an exceptional development, is giving up positions to Chinese and South Korean competition, but is betting on new technologies to stay viable. The automotive industry, developing under the protection of the state between Tokyo and Hiroshima, in the second half of the twentieth century it gained the world record, as well as that of motorcycles; but towards the end of the century the major houses began a relocation policy, transferring production and assembly abroad, both to circumvent protectionist barriers (European Union, United States) and, more recently, to enjoy low labor costs (China, Latin America, Southeast Asia). Japan still firmly holds the first place in the leading sectors of precision mechanics, electronics, microelectronics and information technology, considered strategic and in which massive investments are made in research activities. The decline of textiles is clear, with the partial exception of the silk factories of the central Japan The food and paper industries retain their importance, as well as the famous one
According to RELATIONSHIPSPLUS, the morphology of the Japanese archipelago posed serious difficulties to the construction of an effective system of communication routes: only starting from the second half of the 20th century, with the help of technical innovations and engineering devices, it was possible to connect the whole country with a single network. Railways (20,050 km, of which 12,217 are electrified) carry only 10% of goods, but about 35% of passengers. The roads have undergone an enormous development (1,193,000 km, of which 933,000 are asphalted) and have been flanked by 6900 km of motorways. Over a third of the total traffic is on the portion of the network between Tokyo and Kobe, mainly due to the intense commuter movements that have developed within the megalopolis system. Despite a sharp reduction in the merchant fleet, the Japan Chiba. The Japan has many airports, including the very popular Narita and Haneda airports serving Tokyo.
The trade balance is traditionally in strong surplus, with the value of imports equal to 80% of that of exports; Japan is the third country in the world for exports of goods and the seventh for exports of services. The manufactured goods, 24% of which are high-tech, account for 93% of the value of exports; raw materials, foodstuffs and fuels make up 70% of imports. Since 2004 China has been the first commercial counterpart of Japan, but as far as the export trade alone is concerned, this primacy is held by the United States; very intense exchanges take place with the countries of Southeast Asia. The banking system is very developed, with five of the top ten commercial banks in the world. The Tokyo stock exchange is among the very first on a global level.