A barrage of daily reports about the strong yen and the European financial crisis make it difficult to detect signs of decent business prospects.
Even companies that have shifted their production overseas often encounter problems with sharply rising wages and other labor issues.
Despite these challenges, there are still a number of small Japanese companies that continue to shine brightly.
Allow me to cite one such case.
In preparing for the London Summer Olympics this month, a major concern for local officials was how to deal with an explosion of counterfeit one-pound coins.
With an influx of foreign visitors expected for the Summer Games, there were concerns that an even larger volume of counterfeits of the small, but heavy thick silver-plated nickel alloy coins would go into circulation.
The situation had the potential to ruin public transportation systems, such as the Tube, which rely on automated ticket selling machines.
The problem was avoided due to the efforts of a small Japanese company, whose core business is coin selection technology.
The first company that London authorities consulted was a big German concern that also specializes in coin selection equipment.
But it was unable to come up with a technological answer to resolve the problem.
It was then that the German company recalled its past dealings with Asahi Seiko Co., which is headquartered in Tokyo and has a factory in Saitama Prefecture.
After being consulted by the German company, Asahi Seiko officials came up with a technological answer in two weeks.
The speed of the response as well as the accuracy of the coin selection function stunned officials of the German company.
After the U.S. investment bank Lehman Brothers collapsed in autumn 2008, Asahi Seiko saw its sales halved. With only production bases in Japan, the strong yen also battered the company's earnings.
An ordinary company may have gone bankrupt long ago.
However, with a work force of only 200 or so people, including part-time workers, Asahi Seiko continues to do business with clients from around the world.
Small companies that have a strong core technology and are able to flexibly respond to the global economic environment are a major source of hope for the future of the Japanese economy, despite the many reports of its decline.
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Japan Biz Track columns, by outside contributors from business, academic and other fields using pen names, were originally published by The Asahi Shimbun under the title "Keizai Kishodai." This article was originally published July 4.
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