Situated between Tokyo and Osaka, Aichi Prefecture boasts a world-class manufacturing industry. Nagoya, the prefectural capital, has a population of 2.30 million, making it Japan’s fourth-largest city.
At the head of a major river flowing from mountains and forests, Nagoya was historically a thriving center of timber processing. The construction of Nagoya castle and surrounding districts some 400 years ago spurred new developments in timber processing techniques and laid the foundations for the major industrial city that Nagoya has grown into today.
As well as a flourishing automotive industry that includes world leaders such as Toyota, the region has many large enterprises in the aircraft and ceramics industries, not to mention the chemical and materials manufacturers that supply the raw materials for their products. Many of the SMEs supplying major corporations have superior technologies of their own. Such companies are a significant presence even in a powerhouse of manufacturing excellence like Japan, and local SMEs have the top share of the national market in 10 out of 24 major categories of manufacturing.
Several pharmaceutical companies are based in the region, and advanced manufacturing techniques drive the development and manufacture of medical equipment.
Nagoya University is a key academic institute for the region. Supported by generous R&D investment from local enterprises, the university conducts world-leading research. Its R&D capabilities rank among the best in Japan, and it has produced six Nobel Prize winners to date. Many science and technology universities and corporate research centers are dotted throughout the prefecture, creating a highly-developed research and industrial cluster.
Automobiles and Transportation Systems
The headquarters of Toyota Motor Corporation, one of the biggest automakers in the world, are in Toyota-city, approximately one hour from Nagoya. Many Toyota group companies are also located in Aichi Prefecture, forming one of the world’s preeminent automotive manufacturing clusters.
This region was the birthplace of the hybrid vehicle technology that sparked the eco-car boom, and leads the world in research, development and commercialization of fuel cell vehicles, regarded as the ultimate in environmentally friendly automobiles.
In the aim of creating a low-carbon city, since 2010 the automotive industry has been collaborating with electric power companies, electrical machinery manufacturers, local governments and other interested parties to construct next-generation transportation systems and conduct large-scale trials of personal mobility schemes.
The region is known as a leader in the Japanese aircraft industry, and is home to many companies producing aircraft parts and materials. Structural parts produced in the region are also used in aircraft assembled overseas.
The Mitsubishi Regional Jet (MRJ), Japan’s first small jet aircraft and the subject of global aircraft industry interest, was also developed in the region. In 2014 Aeromart Nagoya, an international convention for the aircraft industry, was held – the first time the event had taken place in Japan.
Medicine: Medical Equipment Manufacturing
Utilizing extensive local manufacturing expertise, development of medical equipment is flourishing in Nagoya.
Denso, a major supplier of vehicle parts to the Toyota Group, is adapting automotive production line control technologies to develop surgical support robots.
The region is also home to SMEs that possess top-class technologies, such as Nidek Co., Ltd., which produces several ophthalmological devices boasting a No.1 global market share.
The ceramic industry has a long history in Aichi Prefecture, and several major manufacturers of ceramic products are based in the region.
These companies utilize techniques derived from ceramic production to create semiconductor and electrical components. For example, their ceramic products are used in particulate filters for automotive exhaust gases.
Recently enterprises with strengths in storage battery technologies, which are essential to more efficient energy usage, have grown in the region, and their products are being used in the large-scale trials mentioned above.