Japan Remains Key Player in Global Market for Peripheral Technologies

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
Kioxia Corp.’s semiconductor manufacturing plant in Yotsukaichi, Mie Prefecture

Japanese semiconductor makers currently lag the U.S., South Korean and other counterparts. Nevertheless, a number of domestic firms continue to rank among the global elite in semiconductor peripheral technologies.

The nation’s semiconductor industry began to make great strides from the late 1970s, with NEC Corp., Toshiba Corp., Hitachi, Ltd., Fujitsu Ltd. and others overtaking U.S. rivals. By 1988, Japan boasted an about 50% share of the global market. However, the industry was rocked by the Japan-U.S. semiconductor agreement, which aimed to weaken Japanese manufacturers.

The creation of semiconductor blueprints and the production of semiconductors based on those blueprints spread around the world as two separate processes. However, Japanese manufacturers, which traditionally handled both processes themselves, struggled to remain competitive, cost-wise.

Today in Japan, Renesas Electronics Corp. — created through the integration of the semiconductor divisions of Hitachi, NEC and Mitsubishi Electric Corp. — primarily produces semiconductors for home appliances and automobiles, while Kioxia Corp., formerly Toshiba Memory Corp., manufactures products for PCs and smartphones.

Many Japanese firms continue to compete at the highest level in the realm of semiconductor peripheral technologies. Tokyo Electron Ltd., which manufactures semiconductor production devices, and Advantest Corp., which creates inspection equipment, have a large number of overseas customers. Shin-Etsu Chemical Co. and Samco Inc. are known for producing semiconductor wafers, while Disco Corp. and Tokyo Seimitsu Co. are known for their precise, wafer-cutting equipment.

Resonac Holdings Corp., created through the merger of Showa Denko Materials Co. and the former Hitachi Chemical Co., boasts advanced sealant technologies that protect semiconductors from dust.

Top executives of global semiconductor giants, who recently met with Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, expressed their intention to prioritize cooperation with Japanese companies to strengthen semiconductor supply chains. “Japan has secured a leading position in the fields of materials and manufacturing equipment,” said Dario Gil, senior vice president of U.S. IBM Corp.