There are opportunities for UK companies in all sectors in the huge and lucrative Japanese market. Here we provide an overview of the top sectors and the opportunity areas, resources to help you understand your area in greater detail, and a route to contact specialists directly.
Japan has some of the richest, most quality-conscious and savvy consumers on the planet. Brand UK is a huge selling point in the market – with authenticity and heritage a huge draw in all areas. UK Fashion brands and designers continue to make a huge impact on this fashion-obsessed nation, British designers and design companies are appreciated from architects to giftware to consumer design. The rise and rise of e-commerce in Japan provides opportunities in the huge retail sector, and British Food and Drink companies are making inroads into a competitive market which appreciates authentically British products.
Japan is the original high-tech economy. Visitors to Japan continue to be amazed at the range and demand for technology in all aspects of people’s lives. Nowhere is this more true than in the medical sector where e-health is leading the way to cope with a fast ageing population. This ageing is creating demand across all life sciences sectors and UK companies are at the forefront taking advantage. Japanese multinational giants still dominate the IT & Communications sector with an increasing appetite for innovative technologies and services, with an appreciation of the UK’s unique creative heritage making digital media an area of particular opportunity. In addition, the constantly evolving aspect of the technology market means that the demand in sectors such as cyber security, space, and emerging technologies is set to increase over the next few years, meaning more opportunities for doing business in Japan.
Half of all UK exports to Japan are services which remain in huge demand here. The UK has strong representation in Financial and Business services, where a shift towards the globalised economy is creating opportunities. This also applies to Education & Training with UK strengths in these areas well understood by Japanese companies looking to internationalise their workforces in the face of the economic challenge from China.
Manufacturing & Industrial
Japan built its twentieth century modernisation on the back of its world-class manufacturing base. Japanese manufacturing companies still lead the world in a number of lucrative industries – from car production to heavy industries. It also drives Japan’s continued export success. UK companies have been enjoying success in several manufacturing sub sectors such as aerospace and automotive where innovative and high-tech solutions are in demand from Japanese manufacturers. The chemicals sector continues to be one of the UK’s largest export earners in Japan. The Fukushima nuclear crisis in 2011 has contributed to a country-wide reassessment of the energy mix, with significant growth in renewable energy – an area where the UK is an acknowledged world-leader. The ongoing work to decommission the Fukushima plant has led to a significant increase in UK-Japan nuclear collaboration.
Defence & Security
Japan has the 5th largest defence budget in the world. Although traditionally purchase of equipment has been from within the US strategic defence relationship, recent legislative changes in procurement rules offer genuine opportunities for the UK defence sector. The security sector offers considerable scope for UK companies with businesses and consumers in Japan traditionally looking towards western developed nations for security solutions.
Last updated November 2023: Steve Crane OBE