UK Exports to Japan

Total trade in goods and services (exports plus imports) between the UK and Japan was £28.6 billion in the four quarters to the end of Q2 2023, an increase of 10.5% or £2.7 billion in current prices from the four quarters to the end of Q2 2022.

Of this £28.6 billion:

Total UK exports to Japan amounted to £14.2 billion in the four quarters to the end of Q2 2023 (an increase of 7.1% or £939 million in current prices, compared to the four quarters to the end of Q2 2022).

Total UK imports from Japan amounted to £14.4 billion in the four quarters to the end of Q2 2023 (an increase of 14.2% or £1.8 billion in current prices, compared to the four quarters to the end of Q2 2022).

Japan was the UK’s 15th largest trading partner in the four quarters to the end of Q2 2023 accounting for 1.6% of total UK trade.

In 2021, the outward stock of foreign direct investment (FDI) from the UK in Japan was £3.1 billion accounting for 0.2% of the total UK outward FDI stock.

In 2021, the inward stock of foreign direct investment (FDI) in the UK from Japan was £92.0 billion accounting for 4.6% of the total UK inward FDI stock.

*Trade data sourced from the latest ONS publication of UK total trade: all countries seasonally adjusted data.

**Investment data sourced from ONS publication on Foreign Direct Investment Involving UK Companies.

Around 9,900 UK VAT-registered businesses exported goods to Japan in 2022.

This trade is made up of the following:

Goods: 48.3%

Services: 51.7%

What are the UK’s main exports to Japan?

The UK’s biggest visible exports are:

  • Power Generation Equipment
  • Vehicles

Other sectors that do well in Japan include:

  • Machinery
  • Chemicals
  • Pharmaceuticals
  • Scientific equipment
  • Food and Drink

Important earners include:

  • Financial and Insurance Services
  • Tourism
  • Media (including TV, film and publishing)

This is, of course, a snapshot of current exports. As Japan and its needs change new sectors are emerging as good prospects for the future, including green technology, defence and security.

Listen to our Podcast: Shipping Goods to Japan with David Van Turton


In this episode, we interview David van Turton, Director at Cavelier Logistics. David shares some of his vast experience and we ask him some of the common questions we get from viewers about sending products over to Japan.

You can find more about the opportunities in your sector in the Key Industries in Japan section of the site.

British companies’ presence in Japan

Many UK firms initially opt to operate in Japan through a distributor of other form of partnership, although more than 450 British firms have generated sufficient momentum to set up their own presence here. These range from large FTSE 100 multi-nationals to small companies for whom Japan is a key market.

The majority are headquartered in the Tokyo area, with other, smaller clusters in the Kansai region around Osaka/Kobe, and in Yokohama.

There is a strong representation from the financial, professional and transport services sectors, as well as consumer goods and pharmaceuticals. The most recent influx of new companies is in the life sciences and energy sectors – evidence of the changing economic landscape.

And the names of British firms – large and small – can be found everywhere you look. Bass Pale Ale is served in Hobgoblin pubs, Burberry coats are in the windows of the top department stores, Lush Cosmetics seem to have a presence in all the main train stations and many high streets. Then there are Cath Kidston and Vivienne Westwood, Pukka Tea and Chivas Regal, Manchester United and Lincolnshire Poacher cheese, Rolls Royce and GlaxoSmithKline.

See our Success Stories Podcast series to here to listen to CEO’s and Founders of many of these companies sharing valuable insights about how they built their business in Japan.

Are there any business organisations in Japan I should link in with?

The Department for Business and Trade Japan has more than 20 experienced market experts on hand to provide advice, guidance and services to UK companies looking to explore or expand into the Japanese market. Make direct contact with our trade advisers through our Free Market Assessment service on Export to Japan. The team are based  in the British Embassy Tokyo and British Consulate-General Osaka and work with colleagues across the Embassy to ensure UK companies benefit from our information and contacts across business and decision-makers in the country.

The British Chamber of Commerce, with some 750 members and an active programme of events and networking opportunities is a good starting point. In particular, their “Small is Beautiful” strand of activity provides useful advice on doing business in Japan for smaller and start-up companies, and access to a wealth of experience from those who’ve “been there, done that”.

JETRO is another useful organisation, particularly if you are thinking of investing in Japan. They offer free temporary office accommodation and a team of market experts who can advise you on the practicalities of setting up your permanent office here. For more information see their setting up a business in Japan page.

Last updated November 2023: Steve Crane OBE