Japan’s Top 10 Exports 2021


Basicby Flagpictures.orgJapan shipped US$756 billion worth of goods around the globe in 2021. That dollar amount reflects a 17.9% gain since 2020 and an 8.3% increase from 2017 to 2021.

Based on the average exchange rate for 2021, the Japanese yen has appreciated by 2.2% against the US dollar since 2017 but decreased by -2.8% from 2020 to 2021. Japan’s weaker local money since 2020 made exports paid for in stronger US dollars comparatively less expensive in 2021. In contrast, Japan’s exports were comparatively costlier from 2017 to 2021 for international buyers starting from the weaker US dollar in 2017.

Japan’s 5 biggest export products by value in 2021 were cars, electronic circuits and microassemblies, automotive parts or accessories, semiconductor-making machinery, and heavy machinery such as bulldozers, excavators or road rollers. In aggregate, that quintet of major exports explain about one quarter (25.5%) of overall export sales from Japan. That group of commodities indicates a comparatively diversified range of exported goods.

Japan ranks among world-leading nations for exporting cars and automotive parts or accessories and is a major competitor among Asian nations in the international trade of electronic circuits.

From a continental perspective, 60.9% of Japan exports by value were delivered to fellow Asian countries while 20.5% were sold to importers in North America. Japan shipped another 12.5% worth of goods to Europe.

Smaller percentages went to Oceania (2.6%) led by Australia, Latin America (2.2%) excluding Mexico but including the Caribbean, then Africa (1.3%).

Given Japan’s population of 125.8 million people, its total $756 billion in 2021 exported products translates to approximately $6,000 for every resident in the East Asian island nation. That per-capita dollar amount compares with an average $5,100 one year earlier in 2020.

Top 10

The following export product groups categorize the highest dollar value in Japanese global shipments during 2021. Also shown is the percentage proportion each export category represents in terms of overall exports from Japan.

Machinery including computers: US$147.1 billion (19.5% of total exports)Vehicles: $137.8 billion (18.2%)Electrical machinery, equipment: $117.9 billion (15.6%)Optical, technical, medical apparatus: $43 billion (5.7%)Iron, steel: $34.6 billion (4.6%)Plastics, plastic articles: $30.3 billion (4%)Organic chemicals: $18.3 billion (2.4%)Other chemical goods: $14.6 billion (1.9%)Gems, precious metals: $14.3 billion (1.9%)Copper: $12.9 billion (1.7%)

Japan’s top 10 exports accounted for approximately three-quarters (75.5%) of the overall value of its global shipments.

Iron and steel as materials represent the fastest growers among the top 10 export categories, up by 51.9% since 2020.

In second place for improving export sales was copper which appreciated 37.7%.

Japan’s shipments of organic chemicals posted the third-fastest gain in value up by 22.8% year over year.

The most modest increase among Japan’s top 10 export categories belongs to gems and precious metals thanks to a 7.1% improvement.

observe that the results listed above are at the categorized two-digit Harmonized Tariff System (HTS) code level. For a more granular view of exported goods at the four-digit HTS code level, see the section Searchable List of Japan’s Most Valuable Export Products further down near the bottom of this article.


The following types of Japanese product shipments represent positive net exports or a trade balance surplus for 2021. Investopedia defines net exports as the value of a country’s total exports minus the value of its total imports.

In a nutshell, net exports represent the amount by which foreign spending on a home country’s goods or sets exceeds or lags the home country’s spending on foreign goods or sets.

1. Vehicles: US$114.7 billion (886.3% of total exports)
2. Machinery including computers: $75.9 billion (586.8%)
3. Iron, steel: $26 billion (201%)
4. Optical, technical, medical apparatus: $14.8 billion (114.2%)
5. Plastics, plastic articles: $13 billion (100.3%)
6. Copper: $9.5 billion (73.4%)
7. Ships, boats: $8.9 billion (68.7%)
8. Other chemical goods: $7.1 billion (55.1%)
9. Photo/cinematographic goods: $5.1 billion (39.5%)
10. Rubber, rubber articles: $4.9 billion (38.1%)

Japan has notably positive net exports in the international trade of automobiles thanks to world-leading automotive corporations including Toyota, Honda, Nissan and Mitsubishi Motors. In turn, these cashflows indicate Japan’s strong competitive advantages under the vehicles product category.


Japan incurred an overall -$12.9 billion trade deficit for 2021, reversing $6.3 billion in black ink in 2020.

Below are exports from Japan that consequence in negative net exports or product trade balance deficits. These negative net exports show product categories where foreign spending on home country Japan’s goods trail Japanese importer spending on foreign products.

Mineral fuels including oil: -US$143.4 billion (Up by 46.4% since 2020)Ores, slag, ash: -$33.5 billion (Up by 59.2%)Pharmaceuticals: -$29.6 billion (Up by 40.1%)Knit or crochet clothing, accessories: -$12.2 billion (Up by 3.9%)Clothing, accessories (not knit or crochet): -$11 billion (Down by -6.3%)Wood: -$10.7 billion (Up by 25.8%)Meat: -$10.4 billion (Up by 4.6%)Gems, precious metals: -$9.6 billion (Up by 273.2%)Fish: -$8.9 billion (Up by 4.1%)Furniture, bedding, lighting, signs, prefabricated buildings: -$8 billion (Up by 10.7%)

Japan has highly negative net exports and consequently thorough international trade deficits for crude oil, petroleum gases and coal.

These cashflow deficiencies clearly indicate Japan’s competitive disadvantages in the international fossil fuel market, but also represent meaningful opportunities for Japan to enhance its position in the global economy by focused innovations.


Wikipedia lists many of the larger international trade players from Japan.

Toyota Motor (cars, trucks)Japan Tobacco (tobacco)Denso (automotive parts)Canon (business products, supplies)Takeda Pharmaceutical (pharmaceuticals)Hitachi (electronics)Fanuc (industrial products)Panasonic (electronics)Astellas Pharma (pharmaceuticals)Nippon Steel (iron, steel)Mitsubishi Electric (electrical equipment)

According to global trade intelligence firm Zepol, the following companies are also examples of leading Japanese exporters.

Honda Motor (vehicles, automotive parts)Nissan Motor (vehicles, automotive parts)Kubota (tractors, excavators, other heavy equipment)


Searchable List of Japan’s Most Valuable Export Products

At the more granular four-digit HTS code level, the following searchable table displays 100 of the most in-need goods shipped from Japan during 2021. Shown beside each product label is its total export value then the percentage increase or decline since 2020.

RankJapan’s Export Product2021 Value (US$)Change1Cars$85,503,225,000+5.7%2Integrated circuits/microassemblies$33,070,825,000+14.6%3Automobile parts/accessories$32,518,193,000+20.3%4Machinery for making semi-conductors$30,491,134,000+29.3%5Heavy machinery (bulldozers, excavators, road rollers)$11,439,273,000+43.7%6Hot-rolled iron or non-alloy steel products$10,701,509,000+63.2%7Solar strength diodes/semi-conductors$10,244,803,000+14.6%8Trucks$10,007,482,000+52.2%9Miscellaneous machinery$9,754,684,000+16.6%10Cruise/cargo ships, barges$9,588,246,000-10.3%11Printing machinery$9,150,781,000+13.9%12Lower-voltage switches, fuses$8,294,499,000+17%13Electrical capacitators$7,934,063,000+19.4%14Gold (unwrought)$7,618,052,000-8.4%15Processed petroleum oils$7,194,163,000+29.5%16Plastic plates, sheets, film, tape, strips$6,817,133,000+13.1%17Piston engine parts$6,799,302,000+23.1%18Beauty/makeup/skin care preparations$6,224,879,000+18.3%19control/control instruments$5,988,896,000+19.6%20Electro-medical equip (e.g. xrays)$5,833,117,000+11.7%21Flat-rolled other alloy steel products$5,729,060,000+68.6%22perfected copper, unwrought alloys$5,666,317,000+20.8%23Air or vacuum pumps$5,651,836,000+16.1%24Electric storage batteries$5,585,929,000+23.3%25Other measuring/testing machines$5,512,100,000+25.3%26Taps, valves, similar appliances$5,402,759,000+18.4%27Transmission shafts, gears, clutches$5,215,047,000+26.7%28Piston engines$5,166,313,000+8.5%29Electrical converters/strength units$5,025,012,000+15.3%30Rubber tires (new)$5,020,804,000+23.8%31Physical/chemical examination tools$4,918,070,000+11.7%32Chemicals used in electronics$4,575,505,000+13.4%33Engines (diesel)$4,560,968,000+19.2%34Ball, roller bearings$4,560,062,000+31.9%35Chemical industry products/residuals$4,539,930,000+25.5%36Medication mixes in dosage$4,514,640,000-7.8%37Optical fiber cables, sheets, plates$4,332,682,000+4.8%38Electrical machinery$4,180,974,000+4.6%39Liquid pumps and elevators$4,110,838,000+14.8%40Oscilloscopes, spectrum analyzers$4,051,366,000+19.5%41Electric motors, generators$3,981,949,000+28%42Turbo-jets$3,806,230,000-5.8%43Iron or steel fragment$3,613,438,000+35.7%44Photographic chemicals$3,491,182,000+18%45Liquid crystal/laser/optical tools$3,372,987,000+1.4%46Electric ignition/start equipment$3,336,488,000+21.4%47Precious metal compounds$3,312,759,000+95.9%48Electrical/optical circuit boards, panels$3,304,178,000+20.3%49Cyclic hydrocarbons$3,277,351,000+31.5%50Polyacetal/ether/carbonates$3,177,589,000+21.2%51Table games, bowling equipment$3,162,388,000+9.8%52Self-adhesive plastic in rolls$3,156,830,000+16.8%53Electric circuit parts, fuses, switches$3,106,329,000+18.9%54Printed circuits$3,032,371,000+8.3%55Centrifuges, filters and purifiers$2,970,463,000+16.1%56Iron and steel screws, bolts, nuts, washers$2,922,196,000+22.8%57Phone devices including smartphones$2,916,101,000+10.2%58Metal-working machinery$2,876,005,000+43.5%59Flat-rolled iron or non-alloy steel products (plated/coated)$2,807,404,000+40.5%60Motorcycles$2,804,372,000+33.3%61TV receiver/transmit/digital cameras$2,640,229,000+10%62Rubber/plastic article making machines$2,547,144,000+10.9%63Machinery parts$2,479,871,000+34.3%64Synthetic rubber$2,468,169,000+26.9%65Initiators/accelerators, catalytic preps$2,387,747,000+38.8%66Miscellaneous plastic items$2,366,464,000+11.7%67Copper waste, fragment$2,337,137,000+85.4%68Tractors$2,332,763,000+33.8%69Motorcycle parts/accessories$2,281,285,000+39.2%70Blood fractions (including antisera)$2,275,850,000+16.9%71Insulated wire/cable$2,205,338,000+16.1%72Plastic plates, sheets, film, tape, strips$2,181,260,000+21.9%73Lenses, prisms, mirrors$2,142,485,000+33.2%74Interchangeable hand/machine tools$2,132,910,000+10.1%75TV/radio/radar device parts$2,123,150,000+21%76Silver (unwrought)$2,098,384,000+30.9%77Oxometal/peroxometal acid salts$2,061,494,000+13.6%78Iron or non-alloy steel products (semi-finished)$2,024,554,000+42.9%79Iron or steel tubes, pipes$2,008,746,000-17.8%80Temperature-change machines$1,908,329,000+11.2%81Paint/varnish non-aqueous solution$1,908,230,000+7.9%82X-ray equipment$1,890,747,000+2.8%83Copper foil$1,874,572,000+33.3%84Platinum (unwrought)$1,807,389,000+13.9%85Computer parts, accessories$1,782,711,000+4.7%86Vinyl chloride polymers$1,769,170,000+31.5%87Cold-rolled iron or non-alloy steel products$1,751,272,000+70.5%88Hydrocarbon derivatives$1,692,896,000+70.4%89Unrecorded sound media$1,658,341,000+4.4%90Electric motor parts$1,647,136,000+32.9%91Copper plates, sheets, strips$1,632,110,000+54%92Computers, optical readers$1,621,715,000+2.4%93Aircraft parts$1,621,407,000-45.8%94Public-transport vehicles$1,606,579,000-8.6%95Miscellaneous heterocyclics$1,591,400,000+5.2%96Vulcanized rubber items$1,580,079,000+18.6%97Coal tar oils (high temperature distillation)$1,540,406,000+34.6%98Electrical lighting/signaling equpment, defrosters$1,520,412,000+14.6%99Other machine parts, accessories$1,520,244,000+17.9%100Liquid/gas checking instruments$1,449,005,000+39.6%
These 100 exported goods were worth a subtotal of US$548.8 billion or 72.6% by value for all products exported from Japan during 2021.

In macroeconomic terms, Japan’s total exported goods represent 13.4% of its overall Gross Domestic Product for 2021 ($5.634 trillion valued in Purchasing strength Parity US dollars). That 13.4% for exports to overall GDP per PPP in 2021 is higher than the 12.3% in 2020. Those percentages suggest Japan’s comparatively increasing reliance on products sold on international markets for Japan’s total economic performance.

Another meaningful indicator of a country’s economic performance is its unemployment rate. Japan’s unemployment rate was 2.775% at October 2021, down from an average 2.792% for 2021 according to the International Monetary Fund.

See also Japan’s Top 10 Imports, Japan’s Top Trading Partners, Top Japanese Trade Balances and Japan’s Top 10 Major Export Companies

Research supplies:
Central Intelligence Agency, The World FactbookCountry Profiles. Accessed on March 15, 2022

International Monetary Fund, Exchange Rates chosen indicators (National money per U.S. dollar, period average). Accessed on March 15, 2022

International Monetary Fund, World Economic Outlook Database (GDP based on Purchasing strength Parity). Accessed on March 15, 2022

International Trade Centre, Trade Map. Accessed on March 15, 2022

Investopedia, Net Exports Definition. Accessed on March 15, 2022

Richest Country Reports, meaningful Statistics Powering Global Wealth. Accessed on March 15, 2022

Wikipedia, List of Companies of Japan. Accessed on March 15, 2022

Wikipedia, Gross domestic product. Accessed on March 15, 2022

Wikipedia, Purchasing strength parity. Accessed on March 15, 2022

Zepol’s company summary highlights by country. Accessed on March 15, 2022

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