Despite economic issues over the past 20 years, the Japanese market remains vast. Japan is the world’s third largest economy in the world and the second largest in Asia. The service sector accounts for 75% of Japan’s economy, with manufacturing accounting for 22%. enterprises make up 99.5% of all Japanese companies. Economic growth is heavily dependent on exports. The Per capita income is $34,870 (USD), the 24th highest in the world.

Incentives for NZ businesses exporting to Japan include:

  • stable place to do business
  • strategic stepping stone for other Asian markets
  • strong political, trade and social ties between the 2 countries
  • highly educated consumers who are early adopters of new products and services
  • large and rich consumer market based in urban areas
  • Tokyo conurbation is the world’s largest at around 35 million

Strengths of the Japanese market include:

  • a huge, open economy
  • a cutting edge business culture
  • an increasingly globalised outlook
  • strong intellectual property (IP) protection
  • hunger for new trends and technologies
  • high levels of disposable income, particularly older people and young singles living with their parents

High-spending consumers

Japanese consumers demand quality, and spend more of their disposable income on consumer goods than other comparable markets. Companies with heritage, authenticity and originality built in to the company or product brand are well received. It’s a highly competitive market and you should be ready to adapt your products to suit local tastes. Recently there has been a huge increase in non-Japanese spenders from neighbouring Asian countries with rich tastes and plenty of cash.

Ageing society

Japan has one of the fastest ageing societies on the world, second only to South Korea. In 2010, approximately 23% of Japan’s population were over 65 and is predicted to increase to 40% by 2055. This is creating opportunities in:

  • healthcare
  • pharmaceuticals
  • medical devices

Intellectual property

here are Japanese laws governing the registration and protection of IP rights relating to patents, utility models, trademarks and copyright. Japan’s trademark law offers equal protection for Japanese and foreign nationals. NZ companies with an intention to develop business in Japan can register their trademarks with the Japan Patent Office (JPO). Companies can do this even if they don’t have an office in Japan. Japan operates a ‘first-to-file’ system, which means that a trademark can be registered even if it’s not yet in use. Once registered, a trademark is protected for 10 years. ‘First-to-file’ applies also to patents and you’re advised not to publicise an invention until it has been registered. The protection period for patents is 20 years. You can find details on the registration procedures and the fees involved on the JPO website.

Gateway to Asia

Japan is well placed to serve as a hub to expand to other Asian markets. Advanced infrastructure and transport systems mean it’s easy doing business in many regions of Japan as well as south east Asia. Strong trade relationships with neighbouring countries provide the opportunity to expand your business further in this region. 


You can find information on tax in Japan for businesses in JETRO’s ‘Taxes in Japan guide’.



The Japan Customs website introduces the customs system and trade procedures. It also provides links to regional offices.


Japanese law requires labels for products in many categories. Generally, labeling for most imported products is not required at the customs clearance stage, but at the point of sale. Consequently, Japanese importers commonly affix a label to an imported product after it has cleared customs. For more information on labeling and marking requirements, please see the following web-based resources:

Consumer Affairs Agency:

Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) Guide to Japanese Household Goods Quality Labeling Law:

Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) Handbook for Industrial Products Import Regulations 2009: