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    Kristie Wong

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    Contributor. Currently based in Tokyo. A third culture kid from Australia, Hong Kong and San Francisco. Lover of social technology and pop culture, and always excited for a good brand story.

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  • Feb 21, 2017


What Makes a Brand Global? Japan’s Top 10 Global and Domestic Brands

What makes a brand global? Some Japanese brands are famous all over the world, whilst others are huge at home but virtually unknown outside of the country.

Interbrand recently released two rankings for Japanese brands – one ranks global brands, whereas the other ranks brands that are mainly recognized only in Japan. Global brands are defined as brands where sales overseas accounts for more than 30% of revenue on top of having a brand recognition of more than 10% by global surveyees.

Interbrand’s ranking is decided by brand value, which is a mixture of a company’s potential future earnings, the brand’s contribution to its current profits, and the brand’s contribution to future earnings.

Check out the ranking comparisons below.

Featured image: Boykov / Shutterstock, Inc.

Top 10 Japanese Global Brands

Company Name Brand Value Percentage of Overseas Sales
1. Toyota 49,048 77.6%
2. Honda 22,974 84.0%
3. Canon 11,278 80%
4. Nissan 9,082 83.7%
5. Sony 7,702 72.8%
6. MUFG (NEW) 6,980 40.4%
7. Panasonic 6,436 52.1%
8. UNIQLO 5,493 42.5%
9. Lexus 3,340 77.8%
10. Nintendo 2,977 75.4%


Of all the brands listed here, MUFG stands out as a new entrant. They are the only financial institution from Japan to have more than 30% of their revenue from overseas.

MUFG currently has operations in The Americas, EMEA, and APAC. For example, MUFG operates Union Bank in the US, which has more than 400 branches in the country. They have expanded significantly in recent years through various acquisitions.

Top 5 Japanese Domestic Brands

While some Japanese domestic brands have more than 30% of their sales revenue from overseas avenues, due to low international brand recognition, they are evaluated as domestic brands.

Company Name Brand Value Percentage of Overseas Sales
1. NTT Docomo 9,198 Less than 10%
2. Softbank 6,092 55.6%
3. au 4,514 Less than 10%
4. SMFG 4,444 22.0%
5. Recruit 3,403 25.7%
6. Mizuho 2,901 25.3%
7. Rakuten 2,784 13.6%
8. Suntory 2,159 42.6%
9. Kao 2,016 33.1%
10. Kirin 1,596 36.7%


Companies like Softbank have in recent years acquired a lot of foreign assets, but due to low awareness of the parent company Softbank by people outside of Japan (as they are seldom a consumer-facing brand internationally), they are ranked as a domestic brand.

Another interesting thing to highlight is Rakuten’s inclusion as a domestic brand. Despite efforts in the years gone by to increase overseas operations, especially in the US, Rakuten’s key revenue sources continue to be based in Japan.

Beverage companies like Suntory and Kirin have significant overseas operations and assets. For example, Suntory owns Jim Beam, a top-selling bourbon brand in the US. Kirin also owns popular beer brands in Brazil, but many don’t actually know that their beer is Japanese.

This low level of brand recognition moves Suntory and Kirin to the “domestic” category, but their strategic separation of the parent brand with their international brands is an effective localization strategy.

Check out the rest of the rankings beyond the top 10 here and here.

For more on how you can grow your brand in Japan, check out our Japan 101 workshop below!


About btrax

btrax is a localization and marketing agency specializing in Asian market entry and growth:
  • Market research
  • Strategy consulting
  • UI/UX and content localization
  • Digital and event marketing
Learn more about btrax or contact us at to see how we can help your business.

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