Japan’s national infrastructure is aging and in dire need of repair, presenting opportunities for U.S. companies providing products and services that examine and diagnose infrastructure. The majority of the Japan’s highways, bridges, tunnels, dams, ports, and railways were constructed in the 1960s/70s when the country’s economy was growing rapidly. Over the past decade, there have been several high-profile collapses of tunnels, dams, and water ducts that led to fatalities, including a 2018 dam collapse (225 deaths) and a 2012 highway tunnel collapse (nine deaths). As of 2023, more than 730,000 bridges, 11,000 tunnels, 10,000 water gates, 470,000 meters of sewage pipe, and 5,000 harbor quays are 50 years or older. This aging infrastructure and associated accidents have become a serious issue and are receiving increased government attention and public scrutiny.
Japan’s Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, and Transportation (MLIT), oversees much of the country’s infrastructure. MLIT estimates that early detection and repair of at-risk infrastructure will help avert serious incidents and reduce maintenance and renewal costs by a massive 47 percent (resulting in savings of $46 billion through 2048). To that effect, MLIT began promoting Digital Transformation (DX) for infrastructure in 2021, and is urging municipalities (infrastructure managing entities) to authorize and utilize new technologies for inspection. Movement has been slow, however, and 60 percent of service providers nationwide are still taking the conventional approaches (e.g., visual examination and hammering). Inspection and maintenance work is done through the public tendering process managed by municipalities through their facility management entities. Spurred by recent pushes from MLIT, many of these entities are now revising their guidelines to include lower cost maintenance inspection with less labor hours by using drones, artificial intelligence, Real Time Kinematic (RTK) measurement, and other technologies including remote controls and 5G-powered edge computing. Commercial Service Japan encourages U.S. companies offering technologies for infrastructure inspection to explore opportunities to partner with Japanese maintenance service providers in the Japanese market.
For more information, please contact the U.S. Commercial Service at Office.Tokyo@trade.gov.