Japan is the world’s third-largest economy. It has a highly-affluent and large population, which has made the country one of the world’s largest consumer markets. The strength of the Japanese economy has traditionally been in high investment in research and development. Canterbury has linkages with Japan through trade, investment and international education in particular.

Quick Facts

  • In 2012 there was $444 million in exports to Japan from Christchurch ports; six percent of exports
  • Meat, wood and dairy products were the most common exports
  • 14 percent of New Zealand’s exports to Japan in 2012 went through Christchurch ports
  • In 2012 there were 900 international students in Canterbury from Japan. While this is the second-largest market, it is a significant reduction from 2010 (2,540 students)
  • Students are spread across all sectors. 338 are in secondary schools, and 344 in Private Training Establishments
  • Japan is New Zealand’s fourth-largest import market, with New Zealand importing significant quantities of vehicles, petroleum and other machinery and parts (particularly for photography)

Market Trends and Projects


Japan experienced a 9.0 magnitude earthquake on 11 March 2011, which was followed by a tsunami in northern Honshu. The official death toll is nearly 16,000, with many more missing. The tsunami also caused a nuclear situation at the Fukushima nuclear power plant, causing the evacuation of the surrounding area.

The fiscal cost of this event to Japan was conservatively estimated at $235 billion (Source: The World Bank), which was estimated to impact on Japanese real GDP growth by 0.2 percent to 0.5 percent initially. This is on top of an already declining Japanese economy.

Japan’s recovery is expected to be different to Christchurch’s recovery from its major earthquakes. In Japan a much smaller proportion of capital was insured, which can prevent some of the delays in recovery as households and businesses do not need to wait for insurance decisions and pay-outs.

Ageing Population

Japan has a severely ageing population, thought to outweigh all other nations. The country was estimated to have the highest proportion of elderly people, with more than 20 percent aged over 65 in 2006. This is projected to increase to 38 percent by 2055 (Source: International FuturesPopulation of Japan, Aged 65 and older). This change is referred to as kōreikashakai. This will have significant implications for the country, ranging from the provision of care for the elderly to the lack of workers to keep the country operating and growing. Japan may become increasingly active in attracting skilled migrants and its export and import mix might change.