In the 1920s it was initially the international port of Hamburg and then Berlin that were the most important places in Germany for Japan. After the Second World War there was huge demand in Japan for machinery and heavy industry products. Düsseldorf – then known as the “Ruhr’s writing desk”– was the ideal place to acquire this sought-after technology, in particular the know-how for steel and machine construction. Düsseldorf also benefited from its central location in Europe’s most important conurbation, thus proving to be the ideal place for the Japanese for all sales and acquisition matters.
400 Japanese companies based in Düsseldorf
After isolated Japanese “scouts” started coming to Düsseldorf as of 1952, the trading firm of Mitsubishi was listed in the local Commercial Register in 1954. The trading house of Okura & Co. followed in 1957. The Japanese community grew – slowly at first, but then very quickly – keeping time with Japan’s international commercial success. Today the Japanese community in Düsseldorf is the third-largest in Europe after London and Paris. Around 8,400 Japanese nationals live in the Düsseldorf city area alone, with some 14,800 in North Rhine-Westphalia as a whole. Almost 620 Japanese companies are operating in NRW, around 400 of them in the state capital itself. Japanese companies in North Rhine-Westphalia employ more than 52,600 people (as in 2020).
Japanese activities have long since expanded beyond the city’s borders. Companies have settled all around Düsseldorf, especially space-intensive ones. Thus more than one-quarter of the Japanese people in Germany live in the Düsseldorf region. Other cities such as Frankfurt, Hamburg and Munich – which are of interest to certain sectors – lag far behind.
Understanding, congeniality and mutual helpfulness characterise the relationship between Japanese and German citizens, encouraged by the German-Japanese Association founded in 1964, as well as by the ongoing dialogue between the City and the Japanese community. Despite the reserve that is typical of the country, Japan’s sons and daughters are a natural part of the picture at traditional Rhineland festivals, and their presence helps to enrich the city’s artistic and musical life.