For many years Japan has been a leading economic superpower with global companies present throughout the world.
Despite its relatively small size and the growth of population giants such as China, Japan has retained its importance as a world economic powerhouse and today Tokyo is the richest city in the world with a GDP of over $1,520 billion, more than London and Paris combined. To put this into an even sharper context, Tokyo is roughly equivalent to the GDP of Canada and larger than Russia or Australia.
However, Tokyo is not alone in demonstrating its financial muscle as Japan’s second largest city, Osaka, boasts a GDP the size of Switzerland and larger than HK and Singapore combined.
Dominance in technology, pharmaceuticals and engineering amongst others has seen Japanese corporations spread their presence throughout the world and Japanese banks have financed development projects in countless developing countries. At each step of the way foreign law firms have advised and assisted smoothing the way for projects and businesses.
Despite the global nature of Japanese business networks, Japan remains a traditional and somewhat closed market for foreigners. Less than 12% of the population speak basic English or better, whilst living costs and real estate remains some of the highest in the world.
The combination of high costs, regulatory hurdles and language barrier has meant that only a handful of foreign law firms have been brave enough to venture to Japan, with less than 50 in total as of this year.
Japan`s lost decade of stagnation has been much commented on but in an ever volatile world with fluctuating FX rates, political unrest, social unrest and other dramatic changes, Japan`s ever present slow, stable pace has been a calm haven for many. The strong yen and stable social order has seen Japan viewed as a safe partner for many foreign companies and governments looking to build closer ties. Likewise, many Japanese corporates are viewing the shrinking local population and consumer base as a catalyst to invest and grow operations overseas. This desire to expand globally together with a traditionally domestic experience means that there is a heavy reliance upon expert foreign advice to help navigate the new and uncharted waters. The future looks bright for international collaboration and trade for many years to come.