The scarcity of Japanese subsoil products is a known fact: coal (20.3 million t in 1974) has become insufficient for national consumption since 1973, iron (429,000 t in 1974) is in short supply and so are lignite and petroleum (672,000 t in 1974), although research is intensifying for the latter. At present, the only abundant minerals remain copper and sulfur, with production respectively of 82,200 t and an appreciable 1.6 million t and the quantities of lead, zinc, gold and silver can be considered.
But the Japan, due to its rainy climate and the unevenness of the relief, has a rich hydroelectric potential, even if its waterways, more streams than actual rivers, do not lend themselves to the construction of large reservoirs, which are also inadvisable, given the high seismicity of the area. Dams and hydroelectric installations are however more numerous in the southern part of Tôhoku (Fukushima) and in the Chubu mountains (Shizuoka, Toyama).
The production of hydroelectric energy amounts to 88,023 million kWh. In the large industrial regions (bays of Tokyo, Osaka, Nagoya) and in the oil areas (Niigata, Okita Yamagata, Hokkaido), thermal power plants fueled by oil prevail (overall 248 million kWh). In increasing development is nuclear energy. In 1965 the large Tokai Mura plant came into operation, serving the entire industrial area of Kanto, and the two Okuma and Hihama plants were installed more recently – but are already in operation; the total production, however, does not exceed one tenth of the national energy produced (installed power 85,296,000 kw, with production of 428,577 million kWh).
From this general situation it follows that Japan is forced to purchase most of the raw materials necessary for the development of its industry (100% of bauxite, nickel, natural rubber, wool, 98% of petroleum, 95% of minerals of iron, 85% of copper, 50% of coal, etc.). The industry, on the other hand, has benefited enormously from the presence of an abundant population, well-prepared for factory work in general and precision in particular, and from remarkable organizational and technical skills.
Not being able to meet the growing needs of manpower with the contribution of new labor forces, industries are becoming more and more automated. Due to its close link with exports, the Japanese industry is still mainly located at ports, river mouths or in highly urbanized areas with easy connections. In the major industrial areas some contrasting aspects of the Japanese industrial apparatus are expressed in all their evidence, among which it is appropriate to emphasize in particular the coexistence of small businesses alongside the large monopolizing companies of entire sectors and heirs of the Zaibatsu, disbanded during the US military occupation but in fact reconstituted little by little and today operating in all their power, which often allows all forms of competition to be eliminated.
According to homeagerly, the processing industry occupies a place of its own. The steel industry has plants of colossal dimensions that have made Japan, starting from 1964, the third world producer of cast iron and iron alloys and of steel (in 1974 respectively 92.7 t and 17, I million t), d000 states United and URss.
The metallurgical industry has also recently had a great development for the enhancement of aluminum production (plants in Shimizu, Chiba, Niigata, Yokohama, Kambara, Kitakata, Omachi, Naoyetsu, Hiihama, Nagoya, Kikimoto, where they produced in 1974 1,124,400 t of first cast aluminum and 517,200 t of second cast). The other metallurgical productions are also noteworthy (nickel, mercury and above all copper, lead, zinc, magnesium, tin).
The textile industry, a more traditional sector as regards the silk mill (189,360 q of silk and 1897 million m 2 of silk produced in 1974), has an avant-garde branch in the field of artificial fibers and in the cotton mill (511,200 t and 2,160 million m 2of fabric).
The development of the ever-expanding automotive industry, which has its largest plants on the island of Honshu, has also been extraordinary in recent years. In 1973, 4,470,550 cars and 2,612,000 industrial vehicles were produced.
But perhaps the most representative sector of the enormous industrial development of Japan is that of precision mechanics, which is the result of a certain orientation and a careful choice. In this field, in fact, Japanese products have invaded markets around the world, inflicting serious blows on competing industries in other countries (Switzerland).
The chemical industry has mainly strengthened the fertilizer sector and then the petroleum, petrochemical, rubber and plastic materials sector. At the same good development have the paper mills and glass factories, which find most of the necessary raw material in the country.
Pollution of excessively industrialized areas. To overcome these drawbacks, thirteen new industrial zones have been identified, again located on the coast, but in less developed regions, where the process of industrial conversion is already underway.
A final mention deserves the development of communication routes in particular railways (26,627 km in 1972, of which 6685 km electrified) and road (1,030,604 km).