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Abenomics at work in manufacturing

Feb 17, 2018
Credit : GMI Post

As the world eagerly awaits the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, which got the unflagging support of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, construction materials developer Kanaflex, like many other Japanese companies, works in the background to prepare for the influx of thousands of tourists from across Japan and the rest of the world.

“We were selected by the National Diet as one of the companies in charge of eliminating utility poles on the streets, and installing underground wires and cables. We are proud to contribute to the preparation of Japan’s landscape for the influx of tourists for Tokyo 2020,” President Shigeki Kanao said.

Given its impressive track record and unique products, Kanaflex has done well in the United States for over 30 years and is well positioned to expand further globally.

The government’s economic stimulus plan dubbed Abenomics has remained effective in providing Japanese companies the much needed shot in the arm.

It eyes China and the U.S. as its next big markets. Although nearly all its business is domestic, construction materials wholesaler JK Holdings values its role in the construction of the Olympic Stadium, always the centerpiece venue of the Summer Games.

“Ninety percent of our business is in Japan but we have been in the business for 80 years. We are a supplier of Japanese wood for the Tokyo Stadium and it is exciting to be part of the Tokyo 2020 infrastructure because it will surely have an impact on people from all over the world,” President Keiichiro Aoki said.

However, Aoki is studying the feasibility of setting up operations outside Japan for its housing materials segment.

As the third “arrow” of the economic stimulus plan dubbed Abenomics, the economic empowerment of women has become more visible in recent years, with very impressive results.

“I just became CEO two years ago. Before that, for over five years, our financial condition was not good,” recalled Akiko Mitani, the CEO of Nikko Company, which makes ceramic goods and wastewater treatment systems. 

To turn things around for the 110-year-old company, Mitani encouraged her employees to understand the company’s importance to the lives of all Japanese. That shift in mindset led to increased productivity and profitability.

For the next five years, Mitani plans to lead the company in growing its business around the world.

“We have been exporting our products for over 50 years. While we will continue to focus on our biggest markets, such as the US and Middle East, I see great potential in Southeast Asia as our comprehensive business field as well,” Mitani explained.

For Fuji Denshi, a unique manufacturer of induction heating machines, tapping the talent of its female workforce has also yielded positive results.

In fact, it was named by the government as one of Japan’s Top 100 Global Niche companies, an achievement that has given much pride to President Hiroko Watanabe.

“I want to cultivate empowerment among women in the workforce. While there is still a long way to go for us here in Japan, there is no denying the importance of women’s role in the economy,” Watanabe said. 

To complement that objective, she established the group Monozukuri-Nadeshiko for female CEOs within the manufacturing industry.

Japan 2018 was prepared for and originally printed in Foreign Affairs magazine.

PDF of the printed report

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