Photo/IllutrationThe Asahi Shimbun

Corporate confidence in the economy has grown in recent months, with 90 percent of major companies in Japan regarding its current state as “mildly expanding” or “expanding," an Asahi Shimbun survey showed on Dec. 5.

Presidents or other top executives of 100 major companies in Japan participated in the biannual survey, 98 of which replied. It was conducted from Nov. 13 to 24.

Eighty-eight companies considered the economy to be mildly expanding, an increase from 77 in the previous survey taken from May to June.

And while no companies regarded the state of the economy as expanding significantly in May to June, the latest survey found that two firms said they felt the economy is expanding significantly.

“The automobile industry has been in good condition all along. In addition to that, the electric appliances industry, including semiconductors, is good,” said Koichi Iida, a member of the board of directors of Mizuho Financial Group Inc.

“Demand resulting from the (2020 Tokyo) Olympics and inbound (foreign tourists) are also leading the Japanese economy,” he added.

The current period of economic expansion, which started in December 2012, is expected to become the second longest in postwar Japan by exceeding the “Izanagi” expansion that lasted from 1965 to 1970.

Asked whether the current expansion seen in official figures matches their actual feelings of the present economic conditions, 51 firms replied that it matches their feelings to some degree, while one company said that it fully matches its feelings.

However, 44 companies said the official figures do not match their feelings very much.

Wages not increasing sufficiently was the reason given by 26 firms, and 18 companies replied that as society has matured, it has become challenging to stimulate growth in demand.

“The current economic condition is just an (asset-inflated) ‘bubble’ produced by the rise in stock prices,” said Tadashi Yanai, chairman and president of Fast Retailing Co., which operates Uniqlo stores.

“Only companies that sell their products in overseas markets are in good condition. The Japanese economic condition itself has not improved.”

Yoshikazu Oshimi, president of construction company Kajima Corp., said, “Japan is full of goods. Because of that, expansion of domestic demand is limited. As what is leading the current economic expansion is consumption by foreign tourists in Japan as well as companies’ activities overseas, it is difficult to feel the expansion.”

Makoto Tani, president of restaurant chain operator Skylark Co., said, “Only stock prices have grown. People in their 40s or younger who struggled in the deflationary period are extremely cautious in their consumption.”

Koji Takayanagi, president of convenience store chain operator, FamilyMart UNY Holdings Co., also said, “People are saving money. They are not using it for consumption. That shows that young people have anxieties about their futures.”

Another factor that is weakening actual feelings of the economic expansion is a gap between the Tokyo metropolitan area and rural areas.

“In urban areas, there are such events as fashions shows and motor shows, which people can experience. But there are no such things in rural areas,” said Akiyoshi Koji, president of drink and food maker Asahi Group Holdings Ltd.

“Both the government and the private sector must become more proactive about local revitalization,” he added.