Japan is one of the most highly developed and prosperous nations in the world. A world leader in consumer electronics and car manufacturing, it is currently the third largest economy in the world (by nominal GDP), behind only China and the USA. As the only Asian member of the G8, Japan holds great sway in international affairs.
In the decades following World War II, Japan experienced phenomenal economic growth. This has slowed in modern times, in particular due to the financial crisis of 2008 and the 2011 earthquake and resulting tsunami. Areas affected by this natural disaster continue to trail behind the national average, but overall the country has mostly recovered and maintains its role as a global economic leader. As part of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, Japan’s economy will be open to increased foreign competition and its businesses will have greater export opportunities.
The GDP of Japan is currently comprised of 1.2% agriculture, 26.6% industry and 72.2% services. In 2015 Japan imported and exported about the same value of goods, approx. $625 billion each way. Their main import/export partners are China and the USA. Motor vehicles and auto parts make up the bulk of Japan’s exports (14.9% and 4.8% of total exports, respectively), along with iron and steel products (5.4%) and plastic materials (3.3%). Most of Japan’s imports are currently energy based – petroleum (16.1% of total imports), liquid natural gas (9.1%) and coal (2.4%). They also import a significant amount of clothing (3.8%) and audio visual devices (1.4%).
New Zealand and Japan have enjoyed a relationship which has spanned decades. During the 1980s and 1990s many Kiwis studied Japanese and there were a great number of sister city relationships formed. While the Japanese economy has cooled in recent years it is still the third largest economy in the world and New Zealand’s fourth largest trading partner.
In 2014 Japan imported $2.9 billion worth of New Zealand goods. 9,742 Japanese students studied in New Zealand in 2014. 93,600 Japanese tourists visited New Zealand in the past 12 months, an increase of 11% on the previous year and Japan has investments in New Zealand worth approximately $8.5 billion.
Shinto and Buddhism are Japan's two major religions. Shinto is as old as the Japanese culture, while Buddhism was imported from the mainland in the 6th century. Since then, the two religions have been co-existing relatively harmoniously.
The Japanese political system is very different from those of the western democracies, although the institutions may initially look similar. The Diet has little real authority; traditionally the factions within the Liberal Democratic Party have been more important than the other political parties; Cabinet meetings are brief and largely ceremonial; and the Prime Minister is weaker than his counterpart in other democracies and usually has a relatively brief tenure in office. Power in Japanese society is wielded less by politicians and more by civil servants and industrialists. This triumvirate of politicians, bureaucrats and big business is known in Japan as "the Iron Triangle". In 2016 the constitution was revised to allow Japanese troops to fight overseas, this is a matter of concern for many neighboring countries. Meanwhile many in Japan are keen for its economic power to be reflected now in the political structures of the United Nations with the country admitted to permanent membership of the Security Council.
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Currency exchange rates in NZD on January 18, 2019