Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Made in Japan

For the last 2 years, I have been reading posts in Internet photography forums regularly. I have learned, from the forums, some photography techniques, and got the news of latest gears.

Most of the major camera and lens makers are Japanese companies – Canon, Nikon, Olympus, Pentax, Sigma, Sony, Tamron etc. Their major contenders include Kodak of U.S., Samsung of South Korea, and the declining Leica of Germany.

Quite often, forum members ask such questions like “Is this camera made in Japan?” or “Is this lens made in Japan?” These people believe that products made in Japan have better quality than those made in China, Taiwan, or South-east Asia.

In a world flooded with Chinese-made goods, Made in Japan has become a brand – a brand which, many believe, equates superior quality and gives us peace of mind. Japanese camera makers, like their counterparts in other industries, have set up plants in countries with cheaper labor or even outsource manufacturing to partners. Consumers, however, continue to choose products made in Japan whenever possible. Even Hong Kong photographers prefer goods shipped from Japan to those manufactured in mainland China!

Canon is probably one company which benefits from consumers’ penchant for goods made in Japan. To be sure, Canon does have factories in many countries, but it has not shut down its facilities in Japan. In fact, Canon announced in January 2006 that it would open a new plant in Oita Prefecture. The new plant would manufacture replacement lenses for digital single-lens reflex (DSLR) cameras. Canon may be making low-end cameras in China, Taiwan or South-east Asia, but high-end, state-of-the-art DSLR and lenses continue to be churned out in the Land of Rising Sun.

Canon’s President Fujio Mitarai is known for questioning the wisdom of moving factories to China. He said, “Wages may be cheaper in China, but labor accounts for only about 10% of total production costs. Instead of rushing overseas to get those small savings, doesn’t it make more sense to focus on how to reduce the other 90%?”

Fujio Mitarai may seem stubborn, but his decision to not send jobs overseas was certainly welcomed by the fans of Made in Japan.

Related post: Fujio Mitarai on Market Research


  1. Interesting read, KS. This brings to mind something I just heard from a colleague.

    Her neighbour, a grandmother, went overseas for a holiday and came back with some children's t-shirts as gifts. Her grandson upon seeing the brand told his grandma that these are the same t-shirts his dad manufactures in his factory in Malaysia which his grandma wasn't aware of. Such irony that we go overseas to buy goods that are manufactured locally. Unfortunately, goods manufactured locally are not sold locally.

  2. happy,
    Our best veggie and fruits are exported to Singapore...