After the country suffered greatly at the end of World War II, in a few short years, Japan transformed itself into one of the world’s biggest economies, with their electronics and cars topping the sales tables globally. Despite the economic downturn and the devastating earthquake which struck the north of the country, many of the biggest companies are still based in Japan. One of the regions, or prefectures, in Japan with the highest concentration of industry is Aichi, in the south of the main island.
Everyone’s heard of Toyota as a brand of Japanese vehicles, but it’s more surprising to learn that there is a city of the same name in Aichi too. The company was formed just before the outbreak of WW2, and started off producing passenger vehicles and engines. They soon diversified into light trucks and pick-ups and pioneered Japanese production techniques such as quality management and just in time inventory control, which lowered the cost of the end vehicle and drastically improved quality. Toyota has also moved into other markets such as getting involved in F1 racing, hybrid vehicles with the top selling Prius and robotics.
Part of Toyota’s diversification was a move into the luxury car market, and the brand of Lexus was born in 1989. Lexus has been successful in taking on the European luxury car manufacturers such as BMW and Mercedes with its range of vehicles which are competitively priced and full of all the latest gadgets and gizmos. As well as standard saloon cars, Lexus produces a range of larger SUV type vehicles and also more environmentally friendly hybrid models.
If you’re a knitter, you’ll definitely have heard of Noro yarn, and this also comes from the same small area of Japan. The company was founded by Eisaku Noro and produces a range of high-quality space dyed yarn which produces a distinctive stripey pattern when it is made into sweaters, scarves or socks. Noro yarn is unusual in that the company often combine several different fibres together to form the end product and this makes it popular with knitters and crochet fans across the world.
It may not sound particularly Japanese, but Brother Industries is one of the biggest electronics companies based in Aichi. It was founded in the early part of the 20th century as Yasui Sewing, and for the early years concentrated on supplying sewing machines to the domestic market. The main focus of the business remained sewing machines until the 1970s, when people started to move away from making their own clothes at home. Now Brother produces a vast range of electronics products including printers, fax machines and industrial machine tools.
If you’ve even serviced your own car, you’ll be familiar with the brand of NGK sparkplugs. It originates in Aichi but now manufactures all over the world, including factories in Germany and California. NGK has won several industry awards for the quality of its products, and is one of the most recognised automotive brands in the world.
- License: Creative Commons image source
Japanese yarn ‘Noro Yarn‘ can be bought online here in the UK from specialist yarn and knitting retailers such as Pack Lane Wool.