Fish, forests, and a minute amount of minerals are Japan's only real natural resources. Despite having one of the largest economies in the world and a high standard of living, the Asian country relies on imports for survival. Instead, agriculture, tourism, the service industry, and manufacturing goods, such as electronics, motor vehicles, machines, ships, and chemicals, are the major components of the Japanese economy.
Because Japan is a nation of islands in the Pacific Ocean, its main natural resources are found off its coastlines in the form of fish and other seafood. The country has more than 2,000 fishing ports, although even its fishing industry in decline due to pollution, overfishing, restrictions from other countries, and an aging fish worker population. Japan also participates in controversial commercial whaling.
Japan's second-largest natural resource is its collection of forests. More than two-thirds of the nation is covered with forests made up of a variety of tree types. Approximately 40 percent of the forests in Japan were created by man to provide wood for construction. However, Japanese companies found that it was cheaper to use concrete, and many of those forests remain untouched. Economists claim these untouched resources have the potential to help Japan create one of the top forestry industries in the world.
Some minerals, such as copper, gold, tin, zinc, manganese, are mined in Japan in select areas, but the amounts are so small, or the quality is so poor that many do not count them as natural resources for the country.
Agriculture accounts for a small part of Japan's economy. The most commonly farmed crop is rice, which grows in paddies, or flooded fields, across the country. However, the mountainous terrain makes farming difficult in many areas. Barley, potatoes, tea, and wheat are some of Japan's other important crops.
Other Economic Contributors
Tourism also makes up part of Japan's economy, and it's one sector that's on the rise. Each year, millions of people visit from all around the world to shop in Tokyo, visit Buddhist temples, view Mount Fuji, and explore the rest of the nation and its unique culture.
Japan's service industry also plays a major role in the economy and, unlike some others, it's been on the rise in the 21st century. This includes housekeeping, childcare, nursing home care, leisure activities, advertising, real estate, publishing, insurance, and telecommunications.
Since World War II, Japan's manufacturing industry has grown faster than any other industry and had the biggest impact on the country's economy. More motor vehicles are produced and more ships are built here than almost any other place in the world. Machinery, electronics, cameras, telecommunications equipment, iron, and steel are also some of its most manufactured products.
Imports and Exports
Due to the lack of natural resources, Japan relies heavily on exports and imports. The majority of its imports are made up of energy sources, such as coal, natural gas, and petroleum, because the country is unable to produce its own. Agricultural products and audio-video gear are also among its top imports. Most of Japan's imports come from China, the United States, Australia, and South Korea.
Most of Japan's exports go to the U.S., followed by China, Hong Kong, South Korea, and Thailand. Motor vehicles, auto parts, machinery, semiconductors, and plastics are among its top exports.