Politics & Economics
Since Alaska became a state in 1959, Japan has been the one of the state’s largest international trade partners. Japan is a consumer of many of Alaska’s major exports, including seafood, minerals, energy, and forest products. In 2014, Japan accounted for about 20 percent (about $1 billion) of Alaska’s $5.1 billion total value of exports.
Both Alaska and Japan have unique characteristics that create the basis of the mutually beneficial economic relationship. Alaska’s vast amount of land and natural resources allow the state to produce large amounts of energy and forestry products. The cooler climate makes Alaska’s surrounding waters home to a diverse array of sealife, allowing Alaska to have a successful fishing and seafood industry.
While Japan does not have as much land for natural resources as Alaska does, Japan has a much larger population, and thus a larger workforce. Energy resources from Alaska can be used to fuel technology, transportation, and infrastructure in Japan.
As one of the largest consumers of seafood per capita in the world, Japan is the top overseas buyer of Alaskan seafood. In 2011, about 20 percent ($1.1 billion) of Alaska’s $5.4 billion in seafood exports were sent to Japan.
Alaskan seafood is popular in Japan because of its high quality. There is a smaller chance for Alaskan seafood to be contaminated by chemical waste due to Alaska’s geographical position. State laws ensure the protection of natural resources, while sustainable fishing practices promise reliable and consistent quality. Alaska is the state closest in distance to Japan, so Alaska can export high quality seafood to Japan quickly and at a competitive price.
Before the 2011 earthquake and tsunami, about one-third of Japan’s electricity came from nuclear power. Since the Fukushima nuclear power plant suffered major damage, Japan has been seeking alternative sources of energy.
Alaska Governor Bill Walker’s administration has been working on developing a natural gas pipeline in the North Slope along with three oil companies, ExxonMobil, ConocoPhillips, and BP. If the pipeline is successfully built, Japan could import LNG from Alaska.
In September 2015, Governor Walker traveled to Tokyo to promote the Alaska LNG project and exporting LNG to Japan. Walker delivered speeches at two LNG conferences and met with many Japanese companies who expressed interest in the project.
Both Alaska and Japan are popular among international travelers. Tourists can experience different outdoor activities depending on the season and the region in Alaska they’re visiting. Likewise, Japan’s landscape and climate varies by region and season, making it a popular vacation destination year-round.
Millions of Japanese citizens travel abroad each year. About 10,000 Japanese tourists visit Alaska annually, many of them aged 65 or older. This generation has been strongly influenced by American culture and often have the time and money to spend on American vacations.
Japanese tourists often buy packaged tours that allow them to experience the beautiful nature of Alaska in a leisurely manner. Packaged tours are often comprised of day cruises, railroad adventures, and national park tours during the summer, and dog sledding, hot springs visits, and Northern Lights viewing during the winter.
Japan has seen a sharp increase in international tourism within the past several decades. Most international tourists who visit Japan from outside of Asia are from the United States. In 2015, over a million people from the United States visited Japan.