In recent years, the Japanese chemical industry was the fourth largest worldwide, following China, the United States, and Germany. Since other industries such as the transportation machinery industry and the automotive industry are dependent on materials provided by the chemical industry, it is one of the most important and largest manufacturing industries in Japan. Furthermore, the chemical industry was one of the largest employers of the manufacturing industries in Japan, providing work for over 950 thousand people.
Chemical industry in Japan
The chemical industry covers a wide range of fields and can be divided into the segments organic chemicals, inorganic chemicals, fertilizers, and chemical end products. More broadly, it also includes plastic and rubber products. Chemical end products, which include products such as oil and fats, soap, detergent, surfactants, paints, cosmetics, and pharmaceutical products, were the product group with the largest shipment value in Japan.
Regarding the trade of chemical products, Asian countries were the main destinations for chemical exports from Japan, and the majority of imports came from Europe, Asia as well as North America. The most exported products were plastic materials, while medical products had the largest import value of chemical products to Japan. Due to the continued demand for pharmaceutical products from its aging population, Japan was expected to remain one of the most important markets for foreign pharmaceutical companies. Since relevant amounts are spent on research and development, product quality and innovation are strengths of the Japanese chemical industry. Furthermore, the growing sales value and capital investment indicated the industry's continuous expansion.
In 2020, the overall production of the chemical industry decreased, as the demand for industrial raw materials fell when manufacturing ceased worldwide at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. As production resumed, figures started to rise again in 2021. Additionally, the outbreak of the pandemic created a new demand in other areas such as medical markets.
Japanese chemical companies rank among the leading global players
The Japanese chemical industry is dominated by few major companies, which are usually highly diversified and often form alliances with other companies. Most chemical industry facilities belonged to the chemical end products segment, illustrating the focus of the industry in Japan.
Some of Japan's chemical companies such as Mitsubishi Chemical Holdings, Toray Industries, Sumitomo Chemical, and Asahi Kasei Corporation ranked among the industry's leading global players. Based on total assets, Mitsubishi Chemical Holdings was the leading chemical company in Japan. The Tokyo-based company is highly diversified, with its main products including chemicals, polymers, high-performance chemicals, films and sheets, electronics, fibers, and textiles. Sumitomo Chemical followed as the second-largest chemical company in Japan. Its main business segments include petrochemicals, plastics, functional materials as well as pharmaceuticals.
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