Japan’s Top 10 Exports

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The world’s fourth-richest country, Japan shipped US$738.2 billion worth of goods around the globe in 2018. That dollar amount reflects a 5.7% improvement since 2017 a 7% increase from 2014 to 2018.

As of August 1, 2019, Japan exported $347.5 billion worth of goods during the first 6 months of 2019 down -6% compared to the same period one year earlier.

From a continental perspective, 58.5% of Japanese exports by value in 2018 were delivered to fellow Asian countries while 21.9% were sold to North American importers. Japan shipped another 13.1% worth of goods to Europe. Smaller percentages were accepted by customers in Oceania (2.9%) led by Australia, Latin America (2.5%) excluding Mexico but including the Caribbean, and Africa (1.1%).

Given Japan’s population of 126.2 million people, its total $738.2 billion in 2018 exports translates to roughly $5,900 for every resident in the East Asian island nation.

In macroeconomic terms, Japan’s total exported goods represent 13.2% of its overall Gross Domestic Product for 2018 ($5.594 trillion valued in Purchasing Power Parity US dollars). That 13.2% for exports to overall GDP per PPP in 2018 compares to 14.7% for 2014, seeming to indicate a relatively decreasing reliance on products sold on international markets for Japan’s total economic performance. And while this article focuses on exported goods, it is interesting to note that Japan also provided $192 billion worth of exports-related services to global customers for an additional 3.4% of GDP in PPP.

Another key indicator of a country’s economic performance is its unemployment rate. Japan’s unemployment rate was 2.4% as of April 2019 down from 2.5% at January 2019, according to Trading Economics.

Japan’s Top 10 Exports

Top 10

The following export product groups represent the highest dollar value in Japanese global shipments during 2018. Also shown is the percentage share each export category represents in terms of overall exports from Japan.

  1. Vehicles: US$154.1 billion (20.9% of total exports)
  2. Machinery including computers: $148 billion (20.1%)
  3. Electrical machinery, equipment: $109.4 billion (14.8%)
  4. Optical, technical, medical apparatus: $41.3 billion (5.6%)
  5. Iron, steel: $29.9 billion (4.1%)
  6. Plastics, plastic articles: $26.1 billion (3.5%)
  7. Organic chemicals: $18.9 billion (2.6%)
  8. Mineral fuels including oil: $13.3 billion (1.8%)
  9. Ships, boats: $12.6 billion (1.7%)
  10. Gems, precious metals: $12 billion (1.6%)

Japan’s top 10 exports accounted for over three-quarters (76.6%) of the overall value of its global shipments.

Product categories with the greatest value increases from 2017 to 2018 were: mineral fuels including oil (up 17.4%), iron and steel (up 7%), machinery including computers (up 6.9%) and organic chemicals (up 5.9%).

Only one of the above top 10 export category posted a decline, specifically the -21% drop for Japanese international sales under the gems and precious metals category notably driven by shrinking revenue for gold.

Note that the results listed above are at the categorized two-digit Harmonized Tariff System (HTS) code level. For a more granular view of exported goods at the four-digit HTS code level, see the section Searchable List of Japan’s Most Valuable Export Products further down near the bottom of this article.

Advantages

The following types of Japanese product shipments represent positive net exports or a trade balance surplus for 2018. Investopedia defines net exports as the value of a country’s total exports minus the value of its total imports.

In a nutshell, net exports represent the amount by which foreign spending on a home country’s goods or services exceeds or lags the home country’s spending on foreign goods or services.

  1. Vehicles: US$129.5 billion (Up by 4.6% since 2017)
  2. Machinery including computers: $75.1 billion (Up by 2.7%)
  3. Iron, steel: $21.7 billion (Up by 5%)
  4. Optical, technical, medical apparatus: $13.7 billion (Down by -4.3%)
  5. Ships, boats: $12.2 billion (Up by 6.1%)
  6. Plastics, plastic articles: $9.2 billion (Down by -8.7%)
  7. Electrical machinery, equipment: $8.4 billion (Up by 5.8%)
  8. Rubber, rubber articles: $6 billion (Up by 6.6%)
  9. Other chemical goods: $5.9 billion (Up by 19.9%)
  10. Copper: $5.4 billion (Up by 15.4%)

Japan has highly positive net exports in the international trade of automobiles thanks to world-leading automotive corporations including Toyota, Honda, Nissan and Mitsubishi Motors. In turn, these cashflows indicate Japan’s strong competitive advantages under the vehicles product category.

Opportunities

Japan incurred an overall -$10.2 billion trade deficit for 2018, reversing a $26.2 billion surplus one year earlier.

Below are exports from Japan that result in negative net exports or product trade balance deficits. These negative net exports reveal product categories where foreign spending on home country Japan’s goods trail Japanese importer spending on foreign products.

  1. Saudi Arabia: -US$29.7 billion (country-specific trade deficit in 2018)
  2. China: -$29.5 billion
  3. Australia: -$28.6 billion
  4. United Arab Emirates: -$19.6 billion
  5. Qatar: -$13.4 billion
  6. Russia: -$8.3 billion
  7. Italy: -$6.7 billion
  8. Indonesia: -$5.8 billion
  9. Ireland: -$5.7 billion
  10. Kuwait: -$5.5 billion

Japan has highly negative net exports and therefore deep international trade deficits for crude oil, petroleum gases and coal.

These cashflow deficiencies clearly indicate Japan’s competitive disadvantages in the international fossil fuel market, but also represent key opportunities for Japan to improve its position in the global economy through focused innovations.

Companies

Japanese Export Companies

Wikipedia lists many of the larger international trade players from Japan:

  • Toyota Motor (cars, trucks)
  • Japan Tobacco (tobacco)
  • Denso (automotive parts)
  • Canon (business products, supplies)
  • Takeda Pharmaceutical (pharmaceuticals)
  • Hitachi (electronics)
  • Fanuc (industrial products)
  • Panasonic (electronics)
  • Astellas Pharma (pharmaceuticals)
  • Nippon Steel (iron, steel)
  • Mitsubishi Electric (electrical equipment)

According to global trade intelligence firm Zepol, the following companies are also examples of leading Japanese exporters.

  • Honda Motor (vehicles, automotive parts)
  • Nissan Motor (vehicles, automotive parts)
  • Kubota (tractors, excavators, other heavy equipment)


 

Searchable List of Japan’s Most Valuable Export Products

At the more granular four-digit HTS code level, Japan’s top export products are cars followed by automotive parts and accessories then electronic integrated circuits.

The following searchable table displays 200 of the most in-demand goods shipped from Japan during 2018. Shown beside each product label is its total export value then the percentage increase or decrease since 2017.

RankJapan's Export Product2018 Value (US$)Change
1Cars$99.1 billion+6.2%
2Automobile parts/accessories$35.9 billion+3.9%
3Integrated circuits/microassemblies$28 billion+5%
4Machinery for making semi-conductors$24.8 billion+8.9%
5Cruise/cargo ships, barges$12.4 billion+5.5%
6Heavy machinery (bulldozers, excavators, road rollers)$10.7 billion+13.9%
7Processed petroleum oils$10.3 billion+15.4%
8Printing machinery$9.9 billion-1.2%
9Miscellaneous machinery$9.6 billion+0.1%
10Trucks$9.2 billion+3.8%
11Solar power diodes/semi-conductors$9.1 billion+3.2%
12Lower-voltage switches, fuses$8.2 billion-2%
13Hot-rolled iron or non-alloy steel products$8 billion+9.3%
14Piston engines$7 billion+14.8%
15Piston engine parts$7 billion+5.7%
16Gold (unwrought)$6.3 billion-25.3%
17Electrical capacitators$6 billion+19.4%
18Cyclic hydrocarbons$6 billion+15.9%
19Plastic plates, sheets, film, tape, strips$5.8 billion+4.6%
20Regulate/control instruments$5.7 billion+11.9%
21Transmission shafts, gears, clutches$5.5 billion+4%
22Air or vacuum pumps$5.3 billion+2.9%
23Electro-medical equip (e.g. xrays)$5.3 billion+8%
24Turbo-jets$5.2 billion+12.1%
25Electric storage batteries$5.2 billion+15.3%
26Rubber tires (new)$5.1 billion+5.1%
27Taps, valves, similar appliances$5 billion+7.1%
28Flat-rolled other alloy steel products$4.9 billion+5.4%
29Engines (diesel)$4.7 billion+19.6%
30Other measuring/testing machines$4.6 billion+12.2%
31Optical fiber cables, sheets, plates$4.6 billion-0.9%
32Ball, roller bearings$4.5 billion+5.2%
33Physical/chemical analysis tools$4.5 billion+9.9%
34Liquid crystal/laser/optical tools$4.4 billion-22.5%
35Refined copper, unwrought alloys$4.1 billion+26.9%
36Electrical converters/power units$4 billion+2%
37Medication mixes in dosage$3.9 billion+30.2%
38Aircraft parts$3.9 billion-6.8%
39Chemical industry products/residuals$3.9 billion+7.6%
40Chemicals used in electronics$3.9 billion+27.2%
41Beauty/makeup/skin care preparations$3.9 billion+48.3%
42Phone system devices including smartphones $3.9 billion-22.1%
43Liquid pumps and elevators$3.8 billion+1.4%
44Metal-working machinery$3.7 billion+10.5%
45Electrical machinery$3.5 billion+3.1%
46Electric ignition/start equipment$3.4 billion+0.8%
47Oscilloscopes, spectrum analyzers$3.4 billion+18.3%
48Electrical/optical circuit boards, panels$3.4 billion+0.3%
49TV receiver/transmit/digital cameras$3.2 billion-6.2%
50Iron or steel scrap$3.1 billion+5.8%
51Printed circuits$3.1 billion+19.8%
52Electric circuit parts, fuses, switches$3.1 billion+0.1%
53Motorcycles$3.1 billion+7.5%
54Photographic chemicals$3 billion+3.8%
55Iron and steel screws, bolts, nuts, washers$3 billion+4.1%
56Electric motors, generators$2.9 billion+6.4%
57Machinery parts$2.9 billion+11.4%
58Polyacetal/ether/carbonates$2.7 billion+6.5%
59Rubber/plastic article making machines$2.6 billion+3.2%
60Centrifuges, filters and purifiers$2.6 billion+10%
61Flat-rolled iron or non-alloy steel products (plated/coated)$2.6 billion+5.3%
62Table games, bowling equipment$2.6 billion+45.2%
63Interchangeable hand/machine tools$2.5 billion+10%
64Synthetic rubber$2.5 billion-1.2%
65Self-adhesive plastic in rolls$2.4 billion-4.3%
66Iron or steel tubes, pipes$2.4 billion+8.9%
67Public-transport vehicles$2.3 billion-2.4%
68Lenses, prisms, mirrors$2.3 billion+1.6%
69TV/radio/radar device parts$2.2 billion-11.8%
70Miscellaneous plastic items$2.2 billion+8.1%
71Insulated wire/cable$2.1 billion+8.7%
72Temperature-change machines$2 billion+9.7%
73Coal tar oils (high temperature distillation)$1.9 billion+9.2%
74Metal-removing lathes$1.9 billion+14%
75Other machine parts, accessories$1.9 billion+16%
76Tractors$1.8 billion+11.3%
77Computers, optical readers$1.8 billion-3.7%
78Electrical lighting/signaling equpment, defrosters$1.8 billion+4%
79X-ray equipment$1.8 billion+5.9%
80Unrecorded sound media$1.8 billion-1.3%
81Iron or non-alloy steel products (semi-finished)$1.8 billion+9.8%
82Computer parts, accessories$1.8 billion-1.6%
83Plastic plates, sheets, film, tape, strips$1.7 billion+7.8%
84Paint/varnish non-aqueous solution$1.7 billion+6.1%
85Cold-rolled iron or non-alloy steel products$1.7 billion+5.7%
86Vulcanized rubber items$1.6 billion+2.8%
87Motorcycle parts/accessories$1.6 billion+2.2%
88Acrylic polymers$1.6 billion+3.8%
89Sanitary towels, baby napkins/liners$1.6 billion-4.1%
90Acyclic hydrocarbons$1.5 billion-3.4%
91Oxometal/peroxometal acid salts$1.5 billion+137.6%
92Moulding boxes/base$1.5 billion+5%
93Miscellaneous engines, motors$1.5 billion+9.1%
94TV receivers/monitors/projectors$1.4 billion+8.6%
95Lifting/loading machinery$1.4 billion+5.9%
96Precious metal waste, scrap$1.4 billion-29.4%
97Metal soldering/hot-spray equipment$1.4 billion+21.7%
98Jewelry$1.3 billion-20.3%
99Air conditioners$1.3 billion+8.1%
100Vinyl chloride polymers$1.3 billion+3.2%
101Heterocyclics, nucleic acids$1.3 billion-5.1%
102Initiators/accelerators, catalytic preps$1.3 billion+16.5%
103Copper foil$1.3 billion+8.8%
104Radar, radio communication items$1.2 billion-0.8%
105Copper plates, sheets, strips$1.2 billion+14.8%
106Miscellaneous iron or steel items$1.2 billion+11.1%
107Flat-rolled stainless steel items$1.2 billion+3.3%
108Silver (unwrought)$1.1 billion-20.3%
109Ceramic wares for technical uses$1.1 billion+5.1%
110Material removal machine-tools$1.1 billion+15.1%
111Lubricants including cutting-oils$1.1 billion+4.7%
112Magnets including electro-magnets$1.1 billion+0.4%
113Hydrocarbon derivatives$1 billion-0.9%
114Machine-tool for metal$1 billion+3.9%
115Miscellaneous heterocyclics$1 billion+8.3%
116Liquid/gas checking instruments$1 billion+6.6%
117Photographic plates/film, unexposed$1 billion+9.8%
118Synthetic yarn woven fabrics$1 billion+3.4%
119Electric motor parts$1 billion+6.8%
120Alloy steel bars, rods$1 billion+11.6%
121Fork-lift trucks$997.3 million+12.7%
122Ethylene polymers$996.4 million+1.9%
123Miscellaneous machine electrical parts$986.5 million-4.4%
124Carbon electrodes, brushes$941.5 million+131.6%
125Amino-resins$940.3 million-5.1%
126Stone/other mineral substance articles$932.5 million+18.4%
127Platinum (unwrought)$929.9 million+9%
128Electrical resistors$923.6 million+7.3%
129Ball-point/felt-tip/fountain pens, markers$923.4 million+0.5%
130Cermet plates, sticks, tips$915.9 million+14.7%
131Derricks, cranes$896.9 million+1.8%
132Blood fractions (including antisera)$870.7 million+6.3%
133Aluminum plates, sheets, strips$862.6 million-0.3%
134Silicones$860.5 million+11.3%
135Seats (excluding barber/dentist chairs)$856.3 million+9.7%
136Steam/vapor turbines$830.3 million-37.3%
137Debur/sharpen/grind machine tools$817.6 million+25.6%
138Copper waste, scrap$809.3 million+0.9%
139 Dishwashing, clean/dry/fill machines $797.4 million+14.3%
140Propylene/olefin polymers$778.9 million+14.8%
141Textile fiber work machines$776.2 million+10.7%
142Print/write/draw inks$771.1 million+4.1%
143Petroleum resins$770 million+7%
144Coated/laminated non-wovens$767.2 million+11.7%
145Cellulose fiber paper$767 million-2.2%
146Other organic cleaning preparations$765.4 million+10.3%
147Paper/paperboard waste, scrap$759.9 million-4.8%
148Styrene polymers$753.9 million+7.1%
149Pneumatic hand tool$753.5 million+2.6%
150Pigments, enamels, glazes$750.2 million+10.9%
151Other food preparations$741 million+41.7%
152Insulating fitting$740.8 million+1.1%
153Unsaturated acyclic mono acids$731.6 million-6.3%
154Coiled other alloy steel bars, rods$712.2 million+7.9%
155Coiled iron or non-alloy steel bars, rods$706.1 million-1.2%
156Railway/tramway coaches, vans, trucks$704.6 million+55%
157Acyclic alcohols$698.3 million-5.7%
158Plastic tubes, pipes, fittings$689.4 million+5.8%
159Electric generating sets, converters$677.3 million+4.5%
160Synthetic filament yarn$670.4 million+1.9%
161Electric water heaters, hair dryers$666.2 million+8.3%
162Organo-sulphur compounds$665.2 million+0.5%
163Other diagnostic/lab reagents$637.1 million+12.5%
164Whole fish (frozen)$624.1 million+18.2%
165Other nitrogen compounds$623.2 million+3.2%
166Aluminum foil (thin)$621.7 million+8.8%
167Prepared adhesives, glues$611 million+1.8%
168Industrial/lab electric furnaces, ovens$608.4 million+29.8%
169Coated paper$607.3 million+29.8%
170Connector/insulating parts$605.5 million-0.3%
171Iron or non-alloy steel bars, rods$601.3 million+8.7%
172Polyamides$600.4 million+5.2%
173Speed/distance meters$596.6 million-0.3%
174Plastic packing goods, lids, caps$593 million+5.3%
175Titanium$588.8 million+11.4%
176Precious metal compounds$582.5 million+18.7%
177Metal sheeting joints, gaskets$579.8 million-1.3%
178Vulcanized rubber tubes, pipes$579.6 million+4.5%
179Knitting/stitching machines$571.4 million-20.5%
180Filament/discharge lamps$561.9 million-0.2%
181Packaged insecticides/fungicides/herbicides$549.1 million+6.2%
182Phenols/phenol-alcohols$545.6 million+9.8%
183Refrigerators, freezers$541.7 million+4.7%
184Electron/proton microscopes$534.6 million+2.1%
185Drawn/blown glass in sheets$527.7 million+1.4%
186Watch components, assembled$527.2 million-4.9%
187Millstones, grindstones, grinding wheels$526.6 million-5.5%
188Weaving machines (loom)$525 million+30.8%
189Iron and steel tubes, pipes$524 million-12.5%
190Spray/dispersing mechanical appliances$521.9 million+12.3%
191Sewing machines, related furniture$516 million+9.6%
192Hydrogen, rare gases$507.2 million-8.3%
193Lamp, tube or valve assembing machines$502.5 million+37.6%
194Photographic plates/film, developed$497.3 million+34.8%
195Synthetic organic coloring$495 million+5.8%
196Other glass articles$494.1 million+38.4%
197Moluscs$492 million+4.4%
198Organic surface-active products, soap$486.7 million+24.6%
199Miscellaneous iron or steel tubes, pipes$480.3 million-4.8%
200Plastics-impregnated textile fabrics$479.2 million+8.2%

These 200 exported goods were worth a subtotal of US$619.7 billion or 83.9% by value for all products exported from Japan during 2018.

See also Japan’s Top 10 Imports, Japan’s Top Trading Partners, Top Japanese Trade Balances and Japan’s Top 10 Major Export Companies

Research Sources:
International Monetary Fund, World Economic Outlook Database (GDP based on Purchasing Power Parity). Accessed on June 26, 2019

Investopedia, Net Exports Definition. Accessed on February 1, 2019

The World Factbook, Country Profiles, Central Intelligence Agency. Accessed on February 1, 2019

Trade Map, International Trade Centre. Accessed on August 1, 2019

Wikipedia, List of Companies of Japan. Accessed on February 1, 2019

Wikipedia, Gross domestic product. Accessed on June 26, 2019

Wikipedia, Purchasing power parity. Accessed on June 26, 2019

World’s Richest Countries, Targeted research > Enriching insights > Global opportunities (GDP based on Purchasing Power Parity). Accessed on June 26, 2019

Zepol’s company summary highlights by country. Accessed on February 1, 2019