As Japan continues on a quest to revive its economy from two decades of sluggish growth, it’s going back to what made it great in the first place: innovative technologies.
Kazuo Sunaga, consul general of Japan in Atlanta, called this revival the “secret” to strengthening his country’s economy.
“To the world, Japan and cutting-edge technology are one in the same,” Mr. Sunaga said at a Japan-American Society of Georgia dinner where companies also laid out innovation plans in their respective sectors.
“This image of Japan was not built in a day,” Mr. Sunaga added. “It is preserved over efforts by Japanese engineers and designers.”
Mr. Sunaga’s attitude was reinforced by three big developments by Japanese companies in the U.S. market that were reviewed at the dinner.
Better known for its cars, the Honda conglomerate a decade ago began its journey into the business-jet sector. The company says it has 100 orders for its luxury HondaJet, for which it will begin delivery later this year. Its engine, the HF120 turbofan, was developed in partnership with General Electric Aviation through a joint venture known as GE Honda Aero Engines.
Greg Benedict, senior manager of manufacturing for Honda Aero Inc., which recently transferred HF120 manufacturing and maintenance, repair overhaul operations to its plant in Burlington, N.C., said the GE partnership made business sense. While Honda provided a lighter, more “mature” engine, GE offered a smooth path to certification with the Federal Aviation Administration, Mr. Benedict explained.
“We were able to bring this into the market quicker than we would have been able to do by ourselves,” said Mr. Benedict.
Mr. Benedict called the engine, a predecessor of which was conceived in the mid ‘80s, “best in class” for durability, performance and fuel efficiency. The engine rests above the wing of the plane, cutting air resistance.
“We’re setting a bar now that other makers are going to need to pursue,” Mr. Benedict told Global Atlanta. For buyers, the HondaJet will cost an estimated $4.5 million.
In the renewable energy market, Hitachi America, a subsidiary of Tokyo-based Hitachi Ltd., has also unveiled new technology for North America with a mobile and weather-repellent energy storage system.
Named CrystaEna, the storage unit resembles the average truck-mounted, shipping container that can be easily transported around the country. Basically a large lithium-ion battery, the system provides stability to power grids during outages caused by poor weather conditions and other complications. The company is testing a pilot system at the moment.
And Japanese companies aren’t confining their work to this world.
Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) is monitoring the recent deployment of a spacecraft destined to land on an asteroid millions of kilometers away from Earth. JAXA works with the U.S. on space exploration missions and represents Japan through its ties to the International Space Station.
Hayabusa 2, which was launched in December last year, is the second Japan-led effort to send an unmanned spacecraft to retrieve physical samples from a celestial body. The original mission took off in 2003 and returned seven years later after reaching an asteroid nearly 300 million kilometers away. JAXA hopes to improve on its first mission with Hayabusa 2.
Nobuto Yoshioka, deputy director of JAXA, likened the task to shooting a mosquito in mid-air in Brazil, from Tokyo “with the tip of a needle.”
“It had to be efficient, well calculated and well prepared,” Mr. Yoshioka said at the JASG event about first Hayabusa mission.
Hayabusa 2 is scheduled to return to earth in 2020, whereafter scientists will spend years analyzing samples from the asteroid, Mr. Yoshioka said. The project is estimated to cost around $150 million.
JAXA and the U.S. are currently collaborating on satellite technology, called Global Precipitation Measurement, that helps monitor weather patterns from space.
To learn more about the new jet engine from Honda and GE, visit www.gehonda.com.
To learn more about the CrystaEna energy storage system from Hitachi and Demansys Energy, visit www.hitachi.us.
To learn more about the Hayabusa 2 mission, visit global.jaxa.jp.