Japan is one of the most highly developed nations in the
world. Its gross national product (the value of all the
goods and services a nation produces) is the second
biggest in the world. Japan is especially strong in
manufacturing; many cars and household appliances are
produced and exported all over the world, and brand names
like Sony, Toyota, and Honda have become quite well known.
is poor in natural resources, though. Until now, Japanese
companies have concentrated on importing raw materials,
such as iron ore from Australia and crude oil from the
Middle East, and then processed these raw materials to
make finished products, which were then exported. But
recently, Japan has been importing more and more
companies have also been making "direct
investments," mainly in North America, Southeast
Asia, and Europe, setting up manufacturing plants to build
products that are either sold locally or exported. Through
these activities, Japanese businesses are helping the
development of industry and creation of jobs in the
countries in which they are investing. Japanese-affiliated
companies in the United States now account for 9% of the
total value of America's exports, for example, and employ
about 638,000 Americans.
has a well-developed network of roads and railways, with
expressways stretching from one end of the country to
another and the high-speed Shinkansen, or "bullet
train," running from Morioka in the north to Fukuoka
in the south. In large cities, there are well-developed
public transportation systems such as buses, trains and
subways. Commuters use these systems more than cars.
main agricultural product is rice. Since Japan's arable
land area is so small, it cannot grow enough wheat,
soybeans, or other major crops to feed itself. Japan has
one of the lowest rates of food self-sufficiency of all
industrialized countries; it must import a high percentage
of its food from abroad.
fishing industry is very active, though, as fish is an
important part of the Japanese diet. The nation is fourth
in the world, following China, Peru and Chile, in its
yearly catch of fish.