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Though deficient both in coal and iron-ore, Japan has become one of the leading steel producers of the world. Since its inception, the industry has been fostered by all round help from the Government. Japan produces about 100 million tonnes of steel per year. The main centres are in Osaka-Koba and Tokyo-Yokohama areas of Honshu, Yawata in Kyushu and Muroran in Hokkaido. Iron ore is imported from India, Philippines, Malaysia and Canada and coking coal is obtained from Australia, China and other countries. Electric furnaces are becoming more important for steel making as electricity is available from hydro-electric stations.
Post-War Meteoric Growth: In spite of all these handicaps, a thorough reorganization of this industry in post-war period through five year plans and huge amount of capital investment with financial aid from the U.S.A, have brought about an unprecedented rate of growth in the production of iron and steel.
In 1988 the country products 88 million tons of pig and 106.8 million tons of steel. High-grade coking coal is now mostly imported from the U.S.A and Canada. Better type of iron-ore is imported from India and Australia. India also supplies pig-iron-ore and the United States supplies iron scraps. As a result of all these improvements and advanced techniques. Japan now produces better steel at cheaper cost. At present the government does not actively participate in the production of iron and steel, yet it has been helping this industry in all possible ways, especially with finance and guidance.
Location: The most striking feature in the locational pattern of Japan's steel plants is that they are situated either on the Bay-coast or on some canal or river. To an unusual degree these plants are severed by water transportation so that ships, barges and lighters can unload fuel and raw-materials at their doors. Another feature is that they are located in the heart of great industrial districts, which provide ready market for finished steel and at the same time, supply scrap-iron and labour.
Large scale concentration of iron and steel industry have occurred in three industrial zones, namely,
(1) North Kyushu,
(2) Osaka-Kobe area and
(3) Tokyo-Yokohama area.
The two other centres of minor importance are (4) Kamaishi in north-east Honshu and (5) Muroran in Hokkaido.
North Kyushu: The Western part of this industrial area is particularly noted for iron and steel industry. Yawata is the principal centre that stands on the coast of a narrow bay. Yawata possesses one of the largest steel plants of the world. Adjacent to Yawata, steel industry has developed at Tobata and Kokura. With these centres North Kyushu produces about one-fourth of nation's steel.
Osaka-Kobe Area. At the head of the Osaka Bay there stands a highly industrialized area known as the Kinki industrial district. Steel manufacturing centres have developed along the coast of the Osaka Bay. The port of Osaka is the principal centre. The highest concentration' of Japan's iron and steel industry can be noticed around the Bay of Osaka. This area produces more than one-third of nation's iron and steel.
Very emphatically it is the local market of light and heavy engineering industries that has stimulated manufacturing of steel in this area
Advantages of the area are - (1) excellent water ways provided by innumerable rivers, canals and the seas, together with a network of railways connecting an extensive hinterland, and (2) the wide expanse of level land favorable for the growth of factories, (3) the supply of capital and labour, and (4) and an enormous market.
Tokyo-Yokohama Area: This is again a great industrial area of Japan known as the Kwanto industrial district. Tokyo, Kawasaki, Yokohama and Chiba are noted steel centres of this area. Originally, Kawasaki, an inland centre between Tokyo and Yokohama, was particularly noted for blast furnaces and steel mills. Tokyo and Yokohama were engaged in highly fabricated products, which could be, produced successfully an small workshops. Chiba on the north-east coast of the Tokyo bay is a post-war creation.
Growth and development of iron and steel industry in Japan amply prove that the lack of raw materials is not a real handicap provided there are markets and initiative.
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