Click on the timeline above for a look at the chronological entrance of many popular Japanese companies into the US marketplace.

Legend for Timeline

Black: Events

Purple: Auto Industry

Green: Electronic Industry

Blue: Cultural Influence

Orange: Other

Of a study of 1,000 global corporations, 8 of the top 10 were Japanese firms. Recent research on the sales performances of the top 15 global firms showed that 7 of them were Japanese as well (Kotabe).There is not doubt on the modern world scale that Japanese companies have taken globalization by the reigns rode it to almost every edge of the globe.

Globalization has made investments in the US a crucial part of the Japanese economy. Likewise, the US finds Japanese investments a crucial part of their own. This interdependency defines a large portion of not only our economic relations with Japan, but our political and social interactions as well.

Japanese investments in the US go further back than the products we see on the shelves of department stores and the cars we drive by. Though most of the products we consider Japanese based today are high-tech gadgets and cars, the original Japanese investments in the US were in trade, finance, shipping, and insurance. The first Japanese investment to make an appearance in the US was in the 1870s when Mitsui and Co., a Japanese trading company, opened their first office in New York City. Many Japanese Trading companies soon followed this trend and started opening up neighboring offices.  In 1880, Japanese banks started to open up agencies the US as well. The combination of these trading companies and banks in the US provided a foundation for more Japanese companies to start looking toward the US marketplace. Until 1914 however, Japanese investments in the United States remained service sector related. It wasn’t for at least another 50 years that companies entering the US became more product based than service based (Wilkins).

SONY logo [Photo Courtesy of Ian Muttoo/Flickr]

Product based Japanese companies tended to emerge in the US marketplace in clumps.  As seen in the timeline above, the Japanese electronics industry started to penetrate the US electronics market around the 1960s.The auto industry started to make an impact around the 1950s. While some industries dwindled, such as Oki in the electronic industry, others that entered near the same time such as SONY still remain a large part of the US marketplace today (Wilkins).

Black Honda Accord [Photo Courtesy of Carlos S.Rivera (CSRPHOTOS)/Flickr]

The Japanese entry mode varied depending on the firm. Some came in as acquisitions and others as direct investments, some just exported. For example, Mitsubishi only entered the US marketplace when their Texan importer went bankrupt and Mitsubishi thought it would be a convenient firm to acquire.   Whatever the mechanism though, it was clear by 1980 to all American consumers that Japanese firms had made their way into the US marketplace and were not leaving anytime soon. As the production and consumption of Japanese products became the norm and a substantial part of the US market, the US marketplace was changed for good. While Japanese companies were excited to continue on their path toward expansion, many American based corporations were far from thrilled and called this change an “invasion.” This ultimately brought rise to a paradox of the demand for Japanese products in the marketplace rising while the negative sentiments toward Japanese companies entering the marketplace rising as well. As Japanese auto makers like Honda flourished and Chrysler shut down factories, and Japanese banks and trading corporations started expanding to buy out domestic ones, there was slow but sure shift from an old America to a new more globalized one (Wilkins).

Hello Kitty PEZ Candy Dispenser [Photo Courtesy of Cy-V/Flickr]

More recently, a lot of the focus on Japanese globalization has expanded from products and technology to cultural aspects as well. From animation to fashion, to television shows to food, Japan grew beyond being a technological superpower but a cultural power as well. Traditional Saturday morning cartoons are now predominantly Japanese animations such as Pokémon and Japanese culture icons such as Hello Kitty are penetrating main stream product lines in the US. This form of globalization has less of an economic impact, but a large impact nonetheless. Japan is getting grasp of what is what is often referred to as “soft power” – a nontraditional approach to attainting power and influence over a country’s values and culture in which neither government nor economics plays a role (McGray).



Timeline Outline:

1879 – Mitsui & Co. [Trading Company]

1880 – Yokohama Specie Bank [Bank]

1914 – $25 Million in Japanese Investment in the United States

1957 – Toyota Motors USA [Automobile Industry]

1959 – Hitachi American Ltd. [Electronic Industry]

1960 – Honda Motors [Automobile Industry]

1960 – Nissan Motors [Automobile Industry]

1960 – SONY [Electronic Industry]

1960 – MATSUSHITA/Pasnasonic [Electronic Industry]

1960 – OKI Electronic Industry Company [Electronic Industry]

1969 – Mitsubishi [Automobile Industry]

1970 – Mazda [Automobile Industry]

1976 – Toshiba [Electronic Industry]

1976 – Sanrio [Culture]

1978 – Bandai [Culture]

1980 – Morinaga & Co. LTD. [Culture]

1982 – Nikon Precision Inc. [Electronic Industry]

1985 – Nintendo [Culture]

1995 – Playstation [Culture]

1995 – Sailor Moon [Culture]

1999 – Mandarake [Culture]

2001 – Yu-Gi-Oh [Culture]

2001 – Pokemon USA [Culture]

2003 – GLICO [Culture]

2005 – UNIQLO [Culture]

2006 – WII [Culture]

2007 – DAISO [Culture]