Japan: an overview

A Japanese flag, before the 2011 IRB Rugby World Cup. Credit: Getty Images

After the devastation of the Second World War, Japan quickly picked itself up and achieved remarkable economic growth. Today, it is the third-largest economy in the world and a major global player in terms of capital and credit. It also plays a fundamental role in aid donations.

Exports of automobile and consumer electronics helped Japan achieve this rapid postwar expansion. Despite the new international outlook of those years, the country has maintained a strong sense of tradition with regards to social and employment hierarchies; until recently, for example, most would expect to work for the same company their whole lives. This is now changing, due to harsher economic conditions and the increasingly westernised attitude of younger generations.

Since the Asian financial crisis of 1997 and the resulting bouts of recession, Japan has settled into a state of comfortable (and sometimes less comfortable) stagnation. Its principal exports today include vehicles, computer parts, chemicals, scientific instruments and watches. In 2010, GDP per capita was $33,885, according to the IMF.