Major Companies

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.

Companies: A- F | G - L | M | N | O - S | T - Z | Fortune Global 500

Hitachi, Ltd

Hitachi Global website

Established as an electrical repair shop in the city of Hitachi, Ibaraki Prefecture in 1910, the largest manufacturer of electric machinery in Japan. Also produces consumer goods, computers and transportation equipment. Entered the field of computers in 1959. Places great emphasis on research and development. The Hitachi Group includes over 1,000 companies, and is Japan's largest employer with over 320,000 employees worldwide. A member of the Hitachi group established in 1961, the Maxell brand of magnetic tapes, batteries and data storage media is recognized worldwide. Headquarters are in Tokyo.

Honda Motor Co, Ltd

Honda America website

Acura brand website

Honda Racing website

The world's No.1 manufacturer of motorcycles and engines is also a leading producer of cars and industrial engines. Also manufactures cars under the Acura brand. Founded in 1946 by Honda Soichiro, it took its present name two years later. Initial succes was achieved by attaching a small engine to a bicycle. The Honda 50 scooter has become a cheap and reliable means of transport all over the world. Having established American Honda Motor Co, Inc in 1959, Honda was the first Japanese carmaker to produce passenger cars in the US. Honda Soichiro was the first Japanese to be named to the US Automotive Hall of Fame in 1989. Honda engines have been highly successful in Formula 1 racing for many years. Headquarters are in Tokyo.

Industrial Bank of Japan, Ltd (now part of Mizuho Financial Group)

Incorporated in 1902, the largest of three private banks specializing in long-term credit to industry. From the 1970's, played an important part in the international financial market, underwriting bonds issued by foreign governments and issuing yen-based bonds. Has subsidiaries around the world. In 2002, consolidated with Fuji Bank and Dai-Ichi Kangyo Bank to form the Mizuho Financial Group, Japan's second-largest bank.

Itochu Corporation

Itochu Corporation website

One of the largest corporations in the world and Japan's largest general trading company, founded as a textile wholesaler in 1858. Divided into C. Itoh & Co and Marubeni Corporation after World War II. Took its present name in 1992. Strong in such fields as machinery and construction, metal and ore, textiles and chemicals. Has branches and subsidiaries in over 80 countries. Headquarters are in Osaka and Tokyo.

JAL (Japan Airlines Co, Ltd)

Asia's largest airline, founded in 1951 and became a government-owned company in 1953 until privatisation in 1987. One of the world's largest airlines with international routes to 82 airports in 31 countries as well as 49 domestic routes. Runs a fleet of over 240 aircraft, both owned and leased, and has the largest number of Boeing 747 "Jumbo" jets in the world. Has almost 700 international flights weekly and 260 domestic flights daily. Also has chain contracts through their World Hotels Program with over 200 hotels worldwide. Operates package tours under such names as JAL-PAK and I'll. Affiliates include Japan Asia Airways and Japan Air Charter (JAZ). Merged in October 2002 with JAS to form the world's sixth biggest carrier. JAL was re-named Japan Airlines International, while JAS became Japan Airlines Domestic. The parent company was re-named Japan Airlines Corporation in 2004. Employs almost 20,000 people. Is expected to join the oneworld alliance in 2007. Headquarters are in Tokyo.

Japan Post Holdings (Japan Air Systems Co, Ltd, now part of Japan Airlines Corporation)

A state-owned conglomerate and the second-largest company in Japan (after Toyota Motor Corp.). Operates post offices, banks, and insurance business. Headquarters in Kasumigaseki, Tokyo.

JAS (Japan Air Systems Co, Ltd, now part of Japan Airlines Corporation)

The third-largest airline in Japan, also involved in helicopter leasing. Incorporated in 1964, took the JAS name in 1988 to reflect a move into international services. Operated tours under the 'Nice Wing' brand. A fleet made up of 113 aircraft flies to 37 cities in Japan and operated charter flights to several international destinations (Mar 1999). Merged in October 2002 with JAL to form the world's sixth biggest carrier.

JFE Holdings, Inc

One of Japan's largest steelmakers. Apart from steel production, engages in engineering, construction, logistics, and chemicals. Formed in 2002 following the merger of NKK, the nation's second-largest steelmaker, and Kawasaki Steel Corporation to compete with rival Nippon Steel Corp.

JR (Japan Railways group)

National network of private railways and related service companies made up of: Central JR, East JR, Japan Freight Railway, Hokkaido Railway, Kyushu Railway, Shikoku Railway and West JR. Formed in 1987 through the privatisation of the financially troubled Japan National Railways (JNR), which was founded in 1949. Operates shinkansen (bullet train) lines and regular train lines. The first bullet train line, the Tokaido Shinkansen, was inaugurated in 1964. JR East sponsors the JEF United J-League professional soccer team.

JT (Japan Tobacco, Inc)

JT global website

Created in 1985 by the privatisation of the Japan Tobacco and Salt Public Corporation, which for many years was a state monopoly on the production of tobacco. Maintained a monopoly in the sale of salt until 1997. Runs the Tobacco and Salt Museum in Shibuya, Tokyo. Holds about 80 percent of the tobacco market in Japan. Sells over 90 brands of cigarettes, including the popular Mild Seven and Caster brands in over 40 countries worldwide. In 1999, sent cartons of cigarettes to residents of old age homes to mark 'Respect for the Aged Day'. One commentator compared the gesture to a message to "hurry up and die"! JT was two-thirds owned by the Japanese Ministry of Finance until June 2004, and the current government share is 50%. Headquarters are in Tokyo.

JTB (Japan Travel Bureau, Inc)

JTB Global Marketing & Travel

Founded in 1912 as the Japan Tourist Bureau to attract foreign tourists and incorporated as a nonprofit organization, Japan Travel Bureau in 1945. Became a private corporation in 1963 and is now the largest travel agency in Japan. Also involved in resort development. Runs the "Yokoso! Japan" campaign in an efort to increase the number of foreign tourists to Japan to 10 million by 2010. Headquarters are in Tokyo.

JVC Kenwood Corporation

JVC global website

JVC Kenwood website

Formed through the 2008 merger of Victor Corporation and Kenwood Corporation. Manufacturer of audio, visual, computer-related electronics and software, and media products. Best known for the brands JVC, Kenwood and Teichiku Records. Headquarters in Yokohama.

Kanematsu Corporation

Kanematsu website

One of Japan's leading general trading companies, incorporated in 1889. Took its present name in 1960. Has some 240 affiliates and subsidiaries throughout the world. Sales are mainly in fuels and chemicals, metals, textiles and machinery and construction. Due to excessive debts, the company announced plans to drastically cut its workforce in the late 1990's. Headquarters are in Tokyo, Osaka and Nagoya.

Kawasaki Heavy Industries, Ltd

Kawasaki Heavy Industries, Ltd global website

Manufacturer of ships, aircraft, motorcycles and industrial plants. Evolved from a merger of the Kawasaki Tsukiji and Kawasaki Hyogo Shipyards in 1896, the company took its present name in 1939. It is named after its founder, Kawasaki Shozo, and has no connection with the city of the same name. Its motorcycles are one of the top brands worldwide. Announced a tie-up with rival Suzuki Motor Corp in Aug 2001 in the development and production of motorbikes. Kawasaki is Japan's No.4 bike company, after Honda, Yamaha and Suzuki. The commonly used name Jet Ski is a KHI trademark. Headquarters are in Kobe and Tokyo.

Kawasaki Steel Corporation (now part of JFE)

Japan's third-largest steelmaker. Manufactures materials and machinery. Announced in Spring 2001 plans to merge the following year with NKK, the nation's second-largest steelmaker to form a company to rival No.1 Nippon Steel Corp. The merged company was named JFE.

KDDI Corp (formerly DDI)

KDDI Worldwide website

Japan's second-largest telecommunications company. Formed in October 2000, through the merger of international carrier KDD, DDI and cellular phone company IDO. Operates in long-distance services, mobile phone systems (au and Tu-ka), and Internet services (Dion), including broadband. In 2002, launched 3G networks using cdma2000 1X technology. In 2003, revolutionized Japan's mobile telecommunication industry by introducing fixed rate data subscription plans. Has been very successful with its EZ wireless data services and music download service Chaku Uta Full, for download of full-length songs to mobile phones. Over 90% of users are 3G CDMA2000 subscribers. Company is 25 percent-owned by affiliate Kyocera. The majority shareholding in Willcom, a PHS company of KDDI, was sold off to the Carlyle Group in 2004. Headquarters are in Tokyo.

Kyocera Corporation

Kyocera Global site

Founded in 1959 by Inamori kazuo as Kyoto Ceramic Co. Ltd in Kyoto as a tech company creating products based on advanced materials and components. Features the so-called Amoeba style management, in which the company is divided into self-managed and competitive profit centres. Established their first North American sales company in 1969. Now a diversified global enterprise with operations in North America, Asia and Europe. Group also includes the KDDI telecom company. Acquired Qualcom's consumer cell phone business in Feb 2000 and established Kyocera Wireless. Announced in 2001 plans to lay off some 20% of its 51,000 employees, mostly at this California-based company. Sponsors the Kyoto Purple Sanga soccer team. Headquarters in Kyoto.

Lotte Co, Ltd

Lotte website

The company name comes from the name Charlotte, a character in a work by German writer Goethe. Incorporated in 1948, one of Japan's leading manufacturers of confectionery, such as gum, chocolate and soft drinks. Subsidies in Japan include the Lotteria fast-food chain and the Chiba Lotte Marines professional baseball team. Established in South Korea in 1967, operates a group of 30 companies including Hotel Lotte, Lotte Department Store and Lotte World theme park. Headquarters are in Kobe.