The Japanese consumer electronics industry experienced rapid economic growth in the 1950s. In the decades that followed, Japan was one of the leading nations both in terms of patent applications for new technologies and the value of exported goods. The technological advancements led to a fast transformation of the most prized status symbols for Japanese citizens, from black-and-white TVs and electric refrigerators in the late 1950s to digital cameras and DVD recorders in the 2000s, to robot vacuums and smartphones in the present day.

Global competition

In the 2000s, the industry fell behind in the global ranking and struggled to maintain its leading role in various areas, such as televisions and semiconductors. The shift in leadership has become especially apparent in the Japanese smartphone market , which came to be dominated by Apple Inc. The downturn of the industry led to financial constraints for major general electrical manufacturers such as Toshiba Corporation and Sanyo Electric Co., Ltd., which reacted by selling off parts of their consumer electronics related portfolios. Sharp Corporation, established in 1912 in Tokyo, became the first large Japanese electronics manufacturer to be acquired by an overseas company when it joined with the Taiwanese electronics company Hon Hai Precision Industry Co., Ltd. ( Foxconn Technology Group ) in 2016. Recently, the outbreak of coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has put the industry under further pressure.

Implementing new technologies

While some companies that once were considered large manufacturers of general electronics have shifted their focus to other industries, like the energy sector, other companies, such as Panasonic Corporation , Hitachi, Ltd. , and Sony Corporation , continue to generate stable profits from consumer electronics. Some of their recently introduced home appliances are equipped with Internet of Things (IoT) technologies. These appliances can be accessed and controlled remotely by smartphones. Panasonic, for example, extended the home appliances business to ‘smart homes’ under the trade name ‘HomeX’ in 2018. Other manufacturers, such as Hitachi, increasingly promoted consumer electronics with integrated Artificial Intelligence (AI) - washing machines with automated load balancing for instance. Consumer electronics with IoT capabilities and AI can be expected to further increase in importance in the Japanese consumer electronics industry.


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