"Subtlety does not grace most assessments of the Japanese economy. As some see it, the economy flew too close to the sun, then fell to earth, where, tied down by red tape, it continues to lie. Yet Japan's economy is still easily the world's second largest; and it is far more diverse than such a thumbnail sketch suggests. Doubters should visit Kyushu, an island in the south. Kyushu has a tenth of the country's population and accounts for about 12% of its GDP, but this still means that its economy is about as big as those of Indonesia, Thailand and Malaysia combined.

Kyushu has fared better than the rest of Japan since the popping of the economic bubble. This is partly because land prices never rose as much on the island as in Osaka or Tokyo, so have not fallen as far. The cheaper land--and the cheaper labour--has drawn many companies. Toyota and Nissan, the country's biggest car makers, built factories in Kyushu in 1992. All the big electronics companies also have plants there. A tenth of the world's semi-conductors are made on the island."

By Richard Cookson

(Excerpt from the November 23rd - 29th 1996 issue)
(With the courtesy of The Economist)