Overview

2020 had an inauspicious, if not unexpected, start for the world’s third-largest economy. 

For the first time since 2015 — and as predicted by the country’s top research firms last year — Japan slipped into a recession during the first three months of 2020, ushered in by an increased consumption tax, natural disasters, and trade troubles with China. 

But as the country moved from a “gentle recession” into a “technical recession” marked by two consecutive quarters of negative growth, the worst was yet to come as the novel coronavirus swept the globe and upended every aspect of life in Japan.

By the end of the summer, the economy had recorded its worst contraction on record of almost 8 percent, even as the country contained the Covid-19 pandemic better than its Western counterparts.

“The health impact of [Covid-19] for Japan [has been] mild so far,” said Takaaki Muramatsu, director of research at SMBC Nikko Securities. “It has forced companies to become more efficient and has given a big kick start to the digital transformation of almost every part of Japanese life. This process will be central to Japan’s new normal.”

To help them navigate this “new normal,” investors have once again turned to a cadre of Japanese-based research firms, based on the results of Institutional Investor’s 28th annual All-Japan Research Team.

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