Japan’s Top 10 Imports

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Japan’s imports totaled US$748.4 billion in 2018. That dollar amount reflects an 11.4% increase since 2017 but a -7.9% decline from 2014 to 2018.

Japanese imports represent about 4.2% of total global imports estimated at $17.788 trillion for 2018 (as of January 21, 2019).

From a continental perspective, 60.3% of Japan’s total imports by value in 2018 were purchased from fellow Asian countries. European trade partners supplied 15.3% of import purchases by Japan while 13.6% worth originated from North America. Smaller percentages were sent to Oceania (6.8%) led by Australia, Latin America (2.8%) excluding Mexico but including the Caribbean, and Africa (1.2%).

Given Japan’s population of 126.2 million people, its total $748.4 billion in 2018 imports translates to $5,900 in yearly product demand from every person in the Asian island country.

Japan’s Top 10 Imports

Top 10

The following product groups represent the highest dollar value in Japan’s import purchases during 2018. Also shown is the percentage share each product category represents in terms of overall imports into Japan.

  1. Mineral fuels including oil: US$174.6 billion (23.3% of total imports)
  2. Electrical machinery, equipment: $101 billion (13.5%)
  3. Machinery including computers: $72.9 billion (9.7%)
  4. Optical, technical, medical apparatus: $27.6 billion (3.7%)
  5. Pharmaceuticals: $25.5 billion (3.4%)
  6. Vehicles: $24.6 billion (3.3%)
  7. Ores, slag, ash: $22.4 billion (3%)
  8. Organic chemicals: $18.2 billion (2.4%)
  9. Plastics, plastic articles: $16.9 billion (2.3%)
  10. Clothing, accessories (not knit or crochet): $14.7 billion (2%)

Japan’s top 10 imports accounted for two-thirds (66.6%) of the overall value of its product purchases from other countries.

Mineral fuels including oil had the fastest-growing increase in value among the top 10 import categories, up 23.6% from 2017.

In second place for improving import sales was the organic chemicals category via its 14.6% year-over-year gain.

In third place were imported pharmaceuticals (up 13.6%) followed by plastics and plastic articles (up 12.3%) then machinery including computers (up 11.7%).

Electrical machinery and equipment posted the smallest year-over-year increase thanks to its 3.4% improvement.

Note that the results listed above are at the categorized two-digit Harmonized Tariff System (HTS) code level. For a more detailed view of imported goods at the four-digit HTS code level, see the section Searchable List of Japan’s Most Valuable Import Products further down near the bottom of this article or under the adjacent product folder tabs.

Fuel

In 2018, Japanese importers spent the most on the following 10 subcategories of fossil fuel.

  1. Crude oil: US$80.6 billion (up 26.4% from 2017)
  2. Petroleum gases: $49.1 billion (up 21.8%)
  3. Coal, solid fuels made from coal: $25.4 billion (up 10.6%)
  4. Processed petroleum oils: $17.7 billion (up 37.1%)
  5. Petroleum oil residues: $921.3 million (up 24.1%)
  6. Coke, semi-coke: $595.9 million (up 57.4%)
  7. Coal tar oils (high temperature distillation): $171.7 million (up 26.6%)
  8. Petroleum jelly, mineral waxes: $98.1 million (up 52.8%)
  9. Distilled tar: $33.9 million (up 176.3%)
  10. Peat: $32.6 million (down -1.2%)

Among these import subcategories, Japan’s purchases of distilled tar (up 176.3%), coke or semi-coke (up 57.4%) and petroleum jelly or mineral waxes (up 52.8%) grew at the fastest pace from 2017 to 2018.

These amounts and the percentage gains within parenthesis clearly show where the strongest demand lies for different types of imported mineral fuels-related goods among Japanese businesses and consumers.

Electronics

In 2018, Japanese importers spent the most on the following 10 subcategories of electronics products.

  1. Phone system devices including smartphones: US$26.1 billion (down -0.2% from 2017)
  2. Integrated circuits/microassemblies: $20.1 billion (up 3.4%)
  3. Insulated wire/cable: $7.5 billion (up 11.2%)
  4. Solar power diodes/semi-conductors: $5.1 billion (down -1.9%)
  5. TV receivers/monitors/projectors: $3.4 billion (up 7.2%)
  6. Electrical converters/power units: $3.2 billion (up 2.5%)
  7. Lower-voltage switches, fuses: $3.2 billion (up 4.5%)
  8. TV/radio/radar device parts: $3.2 billion (up 0.7%)
  9. Electrical machinery: $2.7 billion (down -0.4%)
  10. TV receiver/transmit/digital cameras: $2.2 billion (up 14.4%)

Among these import subcategories, Japan’s purchases of TV receivers, transmitters and digital cameras (up 14.4%), insulated wire or cable (up 11.2%) and TV receivers, monitors or projectors (up 7.2%) grew at the fastest pace from 2017 to 2018.

These amounts and the percentage gains within parenthesis clearly show where the strongest demand lies for different types of imported electronics among Japanese businesses and consumers.

Machinery

In 2018, Japanese importers spent the most on the following 10 subcategories of machinery.

  1. Computers, optical readers: US$15.5 billion (up 4.7% from 2017)
  2. Turbo-jets: $8.2 billion (up 25%)
  3. Machinery for making semi-conductors: $6.4 billion (up 38.5%)
  4. Printing machinery: $4 billion (up 0.9%)
  5. Computer parts, accessories: $3.1 billion (up 4.7%)
  6. Air conditioners: $2.7 billion (up 16.3%)
  7. Air or vacuum pumps: $2.7 billion (up 12.5%)
  8. Taps, valves, similar appliances: $2.5 billion (up 7%)
  9. Machinery parts: $2.2 billion (up 23%)
  10. Miscellaneous machinery: $2.1 billion (up 9.9%)

Among these import subcategories, Japan’s purchases of machinery for making semi-conductors (up 38.5%), turbo-jets (up 25%) and machinery parts (up 23%) grew at the fastest pace from 2017 to 2018.

These amounts and the percentage gains within parenthesis clearly show where the strongest demand lies for different types of imported machinery among Japanese businesses and consumers.

Tech

In 2018, Japanese importers spent the most on the following subcategories of technical equipment.

  1. Electro-medical equipment (e.g. xrays): US$6.4 billion (up 10.9% from 2017)
  2. Orthopedic appliances: $3.3 billion (up 9.7%)
  3. Other measuring/testing machines: $2.7 billion (up 18%)
  4. Optical fiber cables, sheets, plates: $2.5 billion (down -1.2%)
  5. Regulate/control instruments: $2.3 billion (up 11.3%)
  6. Physical/chemical analysis tools: $1.6 billion (up 12.4%)
  7. X-ray equipment: $1.3 billion (down -3.1%)
  8. Liquid crystal/laser/optical tools: $1.2 billion (up 6%)
  9. Oscilloscopes, spectrum analyzers: $1.2 billion (up 13.1%)
  10. Mechano-therapy appliances: $846.5 million (down -3%)

Among these import subcategories, Japan’s purchases of other measuring and testing machines (up 18%), oscilloscopes and spectrum analyzers (up 13.1%) and physical or chemical analysis tools (up 12.4%) grew at the fastest pace from 2017 to 2018.

These amounts and the percentage gains within parenthesis clearly show where the strongest demand lies for different types of imported technical equipment among Japanese businesses and consumers.



 

Searchable List of Japan’s Most Valuable Import Products

At the more granular four-digit HTS code level, Japan’s top import products are crude oil, petroleum gases, mobile phones followed by coal then integrated circuits.

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

RankJapan's Import Product2018 Value (US$)Change
1Crude oil$80.6 billion+26.4%
2Petroleum gases$49.1 billion+21.8%
3Phone system devices including smartphones$26.1 billion-0.2%
4Coal, solid fuels made from coal$25.4 billion+10.6%
5Integrated circuits/microassemblies$20.1 billion+3.4%
6Processed petroleum oils$17.7 billion+37.1%
7Medication mixes in dosage$16.4 billion+10.8%
8Computers, optical readers$15.5 billion+4.7%
9Cars$12.2 billion+9.6%
10Copper ores, concentrates$9.8 billion+18.1%
11Iron ores, concentrates$9.3 billion-3.6%
12Automobile parts/accessories$8.9 billion+7.3%
13Turbo-jets$8.2 billion+25%
14Blood fractions (including antisera)$7.8 billion+22.1%
15Insulated wire/cable$7.5 billion+11.2%
16Electro-medical equip (e.g. xrays)$6.4 billion+10.9%
17Machinery for making semi-conductors$6.4 billion+38.5%
18Aluminum (unwrought)$6.3 billion+11.8%
19Cases, handbags, wallets$5.6 billion+5.9%
20Solar power diodes/semi-conductors$5.1 billion-1.9%
21Jerseys, pullovers (knit or crochet)$4.6 billion+7.4%
22Aircraft, spacecraft$4.4 billion+49.5%
23Swine meat$4.4 billion+0.7%
24Platinum (unwrought)$4.1 billion+22.1%
25Printing machinery$4 billion+0.9%
26Women's clothing (not knit or crochet)$3.6 billion+4.9%
27Whole fish (frozen)$3.4 billion-1.9%
28Miscellaneous plastic items$3.4 billion+6.9%
29Corn$3.4 billion+9.3%
30TV receivers/monitors/projectors$3.4 billion+7.2%
31Fish fillets, pieces$3.4 billion+5.6%
32Orthopedic appliances$3.3 billion+9.7%
33Heterocyclics, nucleic acids$3.3 billion+18.6%
34Electrical converters/power units$3.2 billion+2.5%
35Miscellaneous meat (preserved/prepared)$3.2 billion+7.1%
36Precious metal waste, scrap$3.2 billion+24.3%
37Lower-voltage switches, fuses$3.2 billion+4.5%
38TV/radio/radar device parts$3.2 billion+0.7%
39Iron ferroalloys$3.1 billion+16.7%
40Computer parts, accessories$3.1 billion+4.7%
41Seats (excluding barber/dentist chairs)$2.9 billion+4.4%
42Electrical machinery$2.7 billion-0.4%
43Other measuring/testing machines$2.7 billion+18%
44Air conditioners$2.7 billion+16.3%
45Pipe/chewing/snuff tobaccos$2.7 billion+48.3%
46Air or vacuum pumps$2.7 billion+12.5%
47Miscellaneous furniture$2.7 billion+4%
48Polyacetal/ether/carbonates$2.6 billion+19.3%
49Men's suits, trousers (not knit or crochet)$2.6 billion+7%
50Taps, valves, similar appliances$2.5 billion+7%
51Fuel wood, wood chips, sawdust$2.5 billion+12.1%
52Cigars/cigarellos, cigarettes$2.5 billion-6.7%
53Optical fiber cables, sheets, plates$2.5 billion-1.2%
54T-shirts, vests (knit or crochet)$2.4 billion+8.5%
55Sawn wood$2.3 billion+4.6%
56Crustaceans (including lobsters)$2.3 billion-7.2%
57Regulate/control instruments$2.3 billion+11.3%
58Plastic packing goods, lids, caps$2.3 billion+7.5%
59Models, puzzles, miscellaneous toys$2.3 billion+7.2%
60TV receiver/transmit/digital cameras$2.2 billion+14.4%
61Footwear (textile)$2.2 billion+7.7%
62Aircraft parts$2.2 billion+5.2%
63Machinery parts$2.2 billion+23%
64Electric water heaters, hair dryers$2.2 billion+5.2%
65Miscellaneous iron and steel structures$2.1 billion+23%
66Miscellaneous machinery$2.1 billion+9.9%
67Table games, bowling equipment$2.1 billion-11.3%
68Fresh or chilled beef$2.1 billion+9.1%
69Piston engine parts$2 billion+10.7%
70Wrist/pocket watches (no precious metal case)$1.9 billion+2.9%
71Electric motors, generators$1.9 billion+8.4%
72Transmission shafts, gears, clutches$1.9 billion+10.7%
73Jewelry$1.9 billion-2.5%
74Microphones/headphones/amps$1.8 billion+13.2%
75Hydrogen, rare gases$1.8 billion+4.4%
76Laminated wood (including plywood, veneer panels)$1.8 billion+15.9%
77Centrifuges, filters and purifiers$1.7 billion+18.1%
78Fish, caviar (preserved/prepared)$1.7 billion+10.2%
79Radar, radio communication items$1.7 billion+15.4%
80Wine $1.7 billion+4.4%
81Plastic plates, sheets, film, tape, strips$1.7 billion+9%
82Nickel matte, oxide sinters$1.7 billion+28.5%
83Miscellaneous iron or steel items$1.6 billion+8.3%
84Wheat$1.6 billion+7.3%
85Miscellaneous heterocyclics$1.6 billion+2.1%
86Ethers$1.6 billion+6.5%
87Physical/chemical analysis tools$1.6 billion+12.4%
88Unrecorded sound media$1.6 billion+0.5%
89Electric storage batteries$1.6 billion+21.8%
90Women's coats, jackets (not knit or crochet)$1.6 billion+20.3%
91Wood carpentry, builders' joinery$1.6 billion+5.4%
92Soya beans$1.5 billion-0.3%
93Footwear (rubber or plastic)$1.5 billion-2.9%
94Liquid pumps and elevators$1.5 billion+7.9%
95Sports equipment$1.5 billion+3.9%
96Crustaceans, molluscs (preserved/prepared)$1.5 billion+1.7%
97Acyclic alcohols$1.4 billion+30.3%
98Women's clothing (knit or crochet)$1.4 billion+12.9%
99Beauty/makeup/skin care preparations$1.4 billion+12.7%
100Mattresses, quilts$1.4 billion+7.3%
101Frozen beef$1.4 billion+14.8%
102Men's coats, jackets (not knit or crochet)$1.4 billion+28.6%
103Chemical industry products/residuals$1.3 billion+16.6%
104Moluscs$1.3 billion-4.2%
105Miscellaneous articles, dress patterns$1.3 billion+6.2%
106X-ray equipment$1.3 billion-3.1%
107Copper waste, scrap$1.3 billion+15.7%
108Cheese, curd$1.3 billion+11.2%
109Printed circuits$1.3 billion-12.1%
110Coffee$1.3 billion-11.9%
111Poultry meat$1.3 billion-10.1%
112Footwear (leather)$1.2 billion+4.9%
113Chemical woodpulp (non-dissolving)$1.2 billion+15.8%
114Rubber tires (new)$1.2 billion+7.6%
115Liquid crystal/laser/optical tools$1.2 billion+6%
116Refrigerators, freezers$1.2 billion+4%
117Oscilloscopes, spectrum analyzers$1.2 billion+13.1%
118Electrical/optical circuit boards, panels$1.2 billion+4.6%
119Amino-compounds (oxygen)$1.2 billion+21.5%
120Hot-rolled iron or non-alloy steel products$1.2 billion-2.4%
121Temperature-change machines$1.1 billion+8.1%
122Tracksuits, swimwear (not knit or crochet)$1.1 billion+7%
123Electrical lighting/signaling equpment, defrosters$1.1 billion+11.7%
124Vacuum cleaners$1.1 billion+7.5%
125Silver (unwrought)$1.1 billion-3.5%
126Rape/colza seeds$1.1 billion-2.3%
127Women's shirts (not knit or crochet)$1.1 billion+0.4%
128Linens$1.1 billion+4.7%
129Natural rubber$1.1 billion-17.1%
130Electric circuit parts, fuses, switches$1.1 billion-6%
131Chemicals used in electronics$1.1 billion+18.3%
132Miscellaneous animal feed preparations$1.1 billion+6.2%
133Other food preparations$1.1 billion+3.8%
134Stockings, hosiery (knit or crochet)$1.1 billion+5.4%
135Lamps, lighting, illuminated signs$1 billion+1.9%
136Zinc ores, concentrates$1 billion+13.3%
137Bridge structures, parts$986.8 million+14.3%
138Bras, corsets (not knit or crochet)$974.2 million+5.1%
139Washing machines$967.3 million+4.9%
140Frozen vegetables$951.9 million+5.4%
141Iron and steel screws, bolts, nuts, washers$944.5 million+8.5%
142Engines (diesel)$933.2 million-12%
143Moulding boxes/base$925.2 million-9.9%
144Petroleum oil residues$921.3 million+24.1%
145Bananas, plantains$913.4 million+7.4%
146Men's shirts (not knit or crochet)$905.4 million+2%
147Rough wood$903.4 million+16.6%
148Vulcanized rubber items$898.7 million+4.9%
149Ethylene polymers$887.9 million+21.5%
150Diamonds (unmounted/unset)$885.2 million+11.5%
151Other machine parts, accessories$875.7 million+4.4%
152Red meat offal$870.2 million+1.5%
153Coated/laminated non-wovens$858.1 million+5.5%
154Mechano-therapy appliances$846.5 million-3%
155Piston engines$842.9 million+19.1%
156Oxometal/peroxometal acid salts$824.4 million+83.7%
157Iron or steel pipe fittings$820.1 million+11.9%
158Miscellaneous preserved fruits$819.9 million+0.8%
159Propylene/olefin polymers$809.4 million+67.3%
160Cobalt$806.2 million+46%
161Ball, roller bearings$796.2 million+14.7%
162Telecommunication receivers$791 million+19.1%
163Hay, alfalfa, clover$779.2 million+5.9%
164Base metal mountings, fittings$779.1 million+6.5%
165Women blouses, shirts (knit/crochet)$779 million-3.2%
166Fruit and vegetable juices$778.9 million+19.2%
167Alcohol (including spirits, liqueurs)$762.4 million+9.2%
168Soya-bean oil-cake, other solid residues$761.8 million+15.7%
169Other prepared/preserved vegetables (frozen)$743.4 million+7.4%
170Hydrazine, inorganic salts$738.6 million+38.1%
171Polyamides$732 million+21.7%
172Electromechanic domestic appliances$731.4 million+3%
173Flat-rolled iron or non-alloy steel products (plated/coated)$724 million+7.8%
174Other prepared/preserved vegetables (non-frozen)$723.5 million+3.7%
175Lenses, prisms, mirrors$709.8 million-4.2%
176Motorcycles$696.5 million+9.1%
177Nickel (unwrought)$692.4 million+84.8%
178Video recording equipment$691.8 million-7.5%
179Amine-function compounds$686.1 million+20.2%
180Sutures, special pharmaceutical goods$685.7 million+14%
181Liquid/gas checking instruments$682 million+9.1%
182Bicycles, other non-motorized cycles$670.9 million-0.5%
183Other diagnostic/lab reagents$659.8 million+9.9%
184Acyclic hydrocarbons$658.6 million+30.7%
185Plastic tableware, kitchenware, toiletry$646.9 million+5.1%
186Women's underwear, pajamas (knit or crochet)$642 million+3.4%
187Miscellaneous engines, motors$641.6 million+8.3%
188Rubber/plastic article making machines$640.2 million+15.3%
189Magnets including electro-magnets$627.9 million+6.1%
190Interchangeable hand/machine tools$625.2 million+14.4%
191Men's suits,trousers (knit or crochet)$620.8 million+13%
192Molybdenum ores, concentrates$613.2 million+51.9%
193Chocolate, other cocoa preparations$607.8 million+1.6%
194Synthetic organic coloring$597.4 million+18.6%
195Miscellaneous wooden articles$596.9 million-1%
196Coke, semi-coke$595.9 million+57.4%
197Cold-rolled iron or non-alloy steel products$593.6 million+1.5%
198Live fish $584.9 million+103.7%
199Wrist/pocket watches (precious metal case)$579 million-0.8%
200Electric motor parts$573.4 million+21.9%

These 200 imported goods were worth a subtotal of US$621 billion or 83% by value for all products imported into Japan during 2018.

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

Research Sources:
The World Factbook, Country Profiles, Central Intelligence Agency. Accessed February 1, 2019

Trade Map, International Trade Centre, www.intracen.org/marketanalysis. Accessed on February 1, 2019