Counting Japan out is risky

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Counting Japan out is risky


It took exactly one year for the decline in the number of foreign tourists visiting Japan to bounce back. When the Fukushima nuclear accident happened in March 2011, people thought that Japan’s tourism was doomed. Korean tourism enjoyed a mini-boom as a result. However, the number of foreigners entering Japan rose again in March 2012.

The JoongAng Ilbo reported in February that Korea and Japan both aim to attract 20 million tourists by 2020. However, the two countries’ approaches are different. Japan is installing kitchens for visiting Muslims and promotes a drastic regulatory reform of its service industries, allowing foreign doctors to treat patients in Japan.

It also took one year for Toyota to come back as the No. 1 driver of the automobile market. In 2010, Toyota suffered an extensive recall, and the Big Three American carmakers thought their time had come. In the following year, GM pushed Toyota from the top position and became the number one seller in the world. But Toyota reclaimed its crown in 2012 and kept it in 2013.

The secret of Toyota’s rebound can be found in its subsidiary, Toyota Metal. Founded in 1970, the company recycles scrap cars. It took 40 years for the company to make the break-even point. But when environmental awareness made recycling of cars an unavoidable task, the time had come for Toyota Metal. Toyota Metal recycles 99 percent of scrapped cars and has a technology to collect even the dust from the process and turn it into a resource. Korea recycles 80 percent of scrapped cars.

It is risky to credit the low yen alone for reviving the Japanese economy. The exchange rate certainly boosted it, but an economy has to be solid to take advantage of a favorable exchange rate. Bridgestone is the largest tire maker in the world, and while many think it’s an American company, it is actually Japanese. The brand name originates from the family name of the founder, Ishibashi, meaning “stone bridge.”

When Japanese competitiveness was undermined due to a high yen trend, Bridgestone built factories abroad. A strong currency is negative for exports but can be positive when making overseas investments. Now that the yen is lower, the expansion is paying off.

It’s been four years since Kim Yu-na and Mao Asada competed in the Winter Olympics. Asada is the first female skater to make two triple axel jumps in the Olympics in Vancouver in 2010. It was Midori Ito who first showed this challenging jump in the Olympic Games in 1992 in Albertville. Ito, also Japanese, made two attempts and succeeded once. Eight years later, Asada succeeded twice.

*The author is a deputy business news editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.

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