This is a selection of the largest companies in Japan and some smaller companies whose products or services are an everday presence in the country or abroad.
One of the world's largest manufacturers of electronics, a member of the Sumitomo Group. Incorporated as Nippon Electric Co, Ltd in 1899 to produce telephones and switching equipment. NEC's first microcomputer was built in 1974 and its first personal computer in 1979. Merged PC operations with Packard-Bell of the US in 1996. Had sales in 1998 of over 4.9 trillion yen. The NEC Group has hundreds of affiliates, offices and plants and employs over 150,000 people worldwide. Invests heavily in research and development and new product design. Manufactures over 15,000 products. Company achievements include the discovery of carbon nanotubes by Iijima Sumio, and the creation of the Earth Simulator, the world's fastest supercomputer at the time. Headquarters are in Tokyo.
NHK website (Japanese)
Japan's non-commercial public broadcasting system, formed in 1926 and the only broadcaster in Japan until the end of World War II. Currently operates two television, two satellite, one FM radio and two AM radio channels. Almost completely funded by public reception fees. Began regular television broadcasting in 1953 and for decades has been the most trusted source for news among Japanese viewers. The company's reputation was seriously damaged by a series of financial scandals, with employees embezzling large sums of tax-payers money. This led to a growing number of people refusing to pay their annual subscription fees. Headquarters are in Tokyo.
One of Japan's leading general trading companies, incorporated in 1892. Took the name Nichimen in 1982. A member of the Sanwa Bank group, with some 125 offices worldwide, following the merger with Nissho Iwai Corporation, it became part of Sojitz Corporation on April 1, 2004. Products and projects include airfreight service, subway cars, mobile phone service, condominiums, steel, ethylene, penicillin, rice wholesaling, and lumber products. Headquarters are in Tokyo and Osaka.
Nikko Cordial Securities Co., Ltd. (now SMBC Nikko Securities Inc.)
One of Japan's biggest securities companies, established in 1918 and incorporated in 1944. The first Japanese securities firm to introduce modern American investment methods. Listed on stock exchanges in Germany, France and Singapore. Became a subsidiary of Citigroup in 2007. Renamed as SMBC Nikko Securities Inc. in April 2011.
World-famous camera manufacturer which also produces steppers (used in computer chip manufacture) measuring equipment, telescopes and eyeglasses. Established in 1917, a member of the Mitsubishi Group. Had great success with its Nikon-I camera, launched in 1948 and Nikon-F in 1959. Headquarters are in Tokyo.
Nintendo Japan website (Japanese)
Incorporated in 1947, a manufacturer of electronic games and amusement machines, Nintendo is the biggest and also the oldest company in the Japanese game industry. It was originally founded in 1889 to produce handmade hanafuda cards, used in a Japanese playing card game. In the mid-twentith century, the company tried several small niche businesses, such as a love hotel and a taxi company. Over the years, it became a video game company, one of the most powerful in the industry. Aside from video games, Nintendo is also the majority owner of the Seattle Mariners. Major products include Game Boy, Famicom, Nintendo 64, GameCube, Nintendo DS, and Nintendo Revolution. It has been behind the huge success of such titles as Donkey Kong, Super Mario Bros., and Pocket Monsters and has published over 250 games, developing at least 180 of them, selling over 2 billion games worldwide. Headquarters are in Kyoto.
Nippon Credit Bank, Ltd. (now Aozora Bank)
One of the three long-term credit banks established to encourage the rebirth of industry in the postwar period. Incorporated as the Japan Real Estate Bank in 1957 and changed its name in 1977. Has some 30 domestic offices and branches as well as 6 subsidiaries overseas. Nationalised in 1998, bank officials entered talks in October 1999 with candidates for the purchase of the bank, which was finally taken over by a group made up of Softbank, Orix Corp. and Tokyo Marine and Fire Insurance Co Ltd. The bank was relaunched under the new name Aozora Bank a year later. Headquarters are in Tokyo.
Known by the abbreviation Nissay, it is the largest life insurance company in the world, incorporated in 1889. The first insurance company to base its system on causes of death as found in Japan and the first to pay dividends to policyholders. Sells individual and group life and annuity products worldwide. Japan's deregulatory Big Bang has also allowed the company to begin offering other insurance lines as well, including automobile, fire, and product liability policies for individuals and corporations. Has overseas offices in 9 countries. Headquarters are in Osaka.
The world's largest integrated steelmaker, formed in 2012 with the merger of Nippon Steel and Sumitomo Metal. Nippon Steel was established in 1950, and later through the merger of Yawata Iron & Steel Co and Fuji Iron & Steel Co in 1970. Known in Japan as "Shinnittetsu". Steel products account for about 60 percent of sales. Other areas of production include engineering, chemicals and urban development. Has over 230 consolidated subsidiaries overseas. Headquarters are in Tokyo.
One of Japan's Top 3 carmakers, along with Toyota and Honda, established by Aikawa Yoshisuke in 1933. Formerly known abroad under the brand name Datsun. Also manufactures trucks, machinery, aerospace components and boats. Started mass production of small cars in Yokohama in 1934. Developed a high level of automation as early as the 1950's. Nissan was the first carmaker in Japan to receive the annual Deming Prize for engineering excellence in 1960. In 1966, Nissan introduced the Sunny, which became a major driving force behind the rapid growth of the small-car market in Japan and the world. After the oil crises of the 1970's, the 'Datsun Saves' slogan helped the car achieve huge sales in the US. In March 1999, Nissan signed a partnership with Renault of France to form the world's fourth-largest carmaker and the company blossomed under the charismatic leadeship of Carlos Ghosn and his "Nissan Revival Plan". Ghosn's success with the company is considered one of the greatest corporate turnarounds in history. Nissan has dealerships in around 150 countries and manufacturing facilites in 17 countries worldwide. Affiliates include Nissan Diesel Motor Co and Nissan Shatai Co, which produces car bodies. Announced plans in October 1999 to cut its workforce by 21,000 and close five factories over three years. Headquarters are in Tokyo, though there are plans to move to Yokohama in 2010.
Formed in 1968 through the merger of Nissho Co, Ltd and Iwai & Co, Ltd. Ranked sixth among Japan's nine major general trading companies. A member of the Sanwa Bank group. Following the merger with Nichimen Corporation, it became part of Sojitz Corporation on April 1, 2004. Trades in such commodities as metal and steel products, machinery and energy. It manages infrastructure projects and builds power plants, produces lumber and builds condominiums, imports consumer goods, and offers financial services such as currency trading, bond dealing, and precious metals brokerage. Information projects include satellite and cable TV and telecommunications infrastructure projects in Latin America and China.
Japan's second-largest steelmaker, also involved in engineering and urban development. Announced plans in 2001 to form a joint holding company with No. 3 steelmaker Kawasaki Steel Corp to form JFE, a company to rival world No. 1 Nippon Steel Corp. "This is expected to help revitalize Japan's steel industry," said NKK President Yoichi Shimogaichi. "The current excess competition in the domestic market could be eased through the presence of two major rivals." The company focuses on steel and engineering operations as core businesses. Headquarters in Tokyo.
Nomura Securities website (Japanese)
Japan's largest and oldest securities firm, incorporated in 1925 when the securities division of what later became Daiwa Bank went independent. Expanded into stocks in 1938 and became the first Japanese firm to start investment trust operations in 1941. Through underwriting, helped Japanese firms such as Sony in their expansion into the US market in the 1960's. Established the Nomura Research Institute Ltd, Japan's largest think tank, in 1965. A wholly owned subsidiary of Nomura Holdings, Inc., which forms part of the Nomura Group. Has 130 branches in Japan and 61 offices overseas in 26 countries. In 1998, the company, along with Dai-Ichi Kangyo Bank, was severely punished by government regulators for making payoffs to a corporate racketeer (sokaiya). Headquarters are in Tokyo.
Japan's largest operator of domestic telephone networks, a state monopoly until privatisation in 1985, when it became the country's largest joint-stock company (the government still owns one third of the company). NTT was reorgainized into three separate companies (two regional carriers, NTT East and NTT West, and one long-distance provider) in July 1999, following approval of a reorganization plan by the Minister of Posts and Telecommunications. The NTT group comprises some 15 companies worldwide, including NTT Mobile Communications Network, better known as NTT DoCoMo, Japan's largest cellular phone operator. Often criticized for being slow to introduce changes in the Japanese telecom market to capitalize on the success of the Internet. Also the main target for foreign demands, particularly from the US, for deregulation to encourage competition and new business in the 130 billion-dollar market. Employs over 200,000 people having cut its workforce by about 20,000 by 2002. Headquarters are in Tokyo.