Japan has become the second largest economic power after the US since the 1960s, but was overtaken in this position by China in 2010. Japan is the only non-western country among the leading industrial nations and is increasingly dependent on the Asian economic area. About 50% of Japanese foreign trade takes place in this region, whose goods structure also reflects a change in the intra-regional industrial structure, in which Japan is at the forefront of a regional division of labor. This is a consequence of the relocation of Japanese industrial capacities to neighboring countries, which are initially primarily for cost reasons, but increasingly also for strategic sales reasons. In particular, China, Japan’s most important trading partner in Asia.
According to smber, agriculture plays an increasingly less important role in Japan’s economy, its contribution to GDP is 1.2% (2016) and it employs only 3.5% of the workforce (1980: 9.6%). Most of them only farm as a sideline. Farmers get almost two thirds of their gross income from the state, making Japan’s agriculture one of the most heavily subsidized of the OECD countries. Only 11.1% (4.2 million ha) of the total area of Japan is used as arable land or arable land (1961: 6.1 million ha), 54% of which is used for rice cultivation. Despite a moderate climate and sufficient rainfall, the possibilities for agricultural use are limited due to the many mountain ranges; they are continuously falling due to the strong demand for building land in the agglomeration centers. The average farm size is only 1.6 hectares, which means that profitability is considerably impaired. Cultivation areas are lost every year because they are used for other purposes or are given up by the old farmers for lack of successors. Rice is still the most important agricultural product; domestic production largely covers demand, as does potatoes, vegetables and dairy products. However, the change in eating habits has resulted in rice being consumed less and less, while meat, grains and vegetables are consumed more and more, so that Japan has to cover most of its food needs through imports. Livestock farming is declining in importance within agriculture; it focuses on pig and poultry farming. The increasing consumption of meat led to an increase in the number of operating units; Meat production covers a large part of the demand, the rest and a large part of the feed must be imported.
Forestry: Around two thirds of the land area of Japan is forested, of which over 40% is afforested areas. In the forests of the temperate zone this led to a spread of the monoculture by the Japanese cedars (Cryptomeria japonica, “sugi”), the most important timber in Japan, but not to an expansion of the timber industry, which also resulted in a decrease in the number of employees and high production costs suffers like agriculture. Domestic wood production is stagnating (2016: 21 million m 3) and dependency on imports is steadily increasing. Two thirds of the imports are raw wood, which is mainly used as building material, the rest are processed wood products.
Fisheries: Japan is still one of the largest fishing nations in the world, although fishery production has declined sharply since the 1990s. The catch amount (2015) is 4.2 million t. The Japanese fishery is suffering from falling yields in its own coastal waters, increasing restrictions in international fishing areas and increasing imports. Japan is the largest fish importer in the world and takes in a quarter of the world’s fish imports. Despite falling demand, the per capita fish consumption is still among the highest in the world. The main fishing ports are Kushiro, Hachinohe, Chōshi and Yaizu. The main fishing areas for herrings, tuna and crabs are the waters of the Sea of Okhotsk and the Bering Sea. In coastal zones, the expansion of aquaculture for shrimp and oysters is increasing; mussels, yellowtails and sea bream are also bred in shallow water cultures (0.7 million t). In addition, 493,000 t of aquatic plants were harvested. Japan’s fisheries are repeatedly embroiled in international disputes, particularly over attempts by the International Whaling Commission to ban commercial whaling to be lifted again. The country invokes cultural and culinary customs and defends itself against moral pressure from most Europeans. In 1986 Japan joined the moratorium, but continues to do research. The whale meat is then put on the Japanese market. In 2018 the government announced that it would withdraw from the International Whaling Commission in order to be able to operate commercial whaling again.