The Next Big Theme Japan: November 2023


Tokyo Electron Gears Up for Fight with Lam Research in Semiconductor Etching Space

3D NAND flash memory is a special type of memory in which flash memory cells are stacked vertically to increase memory storage density, unlike 2D NAND, where the flash memory cells are not stacked. Currently American equipment maker Lam Research dominates the 3D NAND space with a 100% market share. However, Tokyo Electron’s announcement of a breakthrough in etching technology in June suggests the company may be able to disrupt this status quo. Etching refers to the process of chemically removing layers from the chip wafer, which is important for making smaller and more complex chips. 200-layer 3D NAND chips considered cutting edge right now, and Tokyo Electron is expected to begin production of next generation 400-layer chips within 2 to 3 years, which could possibly lead to a massive boost in revenue.1

Foreign Investment into Japan Continues in October

As Japanese semiconductor manufacturers continue to strengthen their position, foreign companies continue to consider Japan as a destination for new bases of production. According to sources, Taiwan's Power Solution Manufacturing (PSMC) is reportedly considering five locations in Japan as possible sites for its new $5.4 billion plant.2 In July the company announced plans to build a new plant in Japan in collaboration with SBI Group. Meanwhile, the Japanese government is providing strong subsidies for the construction of Micron's Hiroshima plant; in October, the government approved up to $1.3 billion in subsidies for Micron's Hiroshima plant, which will install state-of-the-art EUV (extreme ultraviolet) lithography equipment.3 Minister of Economy Yasutoshi Nishimura said the plant will help Japan secure a more stable supply of next-generation chips.

Gaming and Animation

Tokyo Game Show Held Offline for First Time in 4 Years, With Record Number of Exhibitors

The highly anticipated "Tokyo Game Show 2023" was held September 21-25 at the Makuhari Messe in Chiba, featuring 787 companies and organizations.4 Exhibitors announced new game titles and displayed products with innovative designs, while attendees were able to try out new forms of gaming experiences and peripherals. The reopening of the Tokyo Game Show 2023 could be symbolic start to a resurgence in game sales. Gaming revenues declined along with a general decline in electronics sales as consumers emerged from the stay-at-home economy, and it will be worth watching to see if a recovery materializes this year or in 2024. In particular, game-related hardware sales are worth referring to as a leading index. Sony Group expects PlayStation sales to reach 25 million units, and Circana estimates that game-related hardware spending in the US rose 23% in the first half of 2023.5 Once consumers purchase gaming-related hardware, they typically purchase games and peripherals many times over the following years. This could set the stage for improved video game performance in 2024.

Robotics and AI

Fanuc’s Number of Industrial Robots Produced Surpasses 1 million Mark

On September 19, robotics and factory automation (FA) giant Fanuc announced the production of its millionth industrial robot.6 Fanuc robot production dates back to 1974 and the company currently offers more than 200 industrial and collaborative robot models. Fanuc held its "Fanuc Open House" exhibition in the UK in October, and participated in the "FABTECH 2023" welding and painting in Michigan in September.7,8 At the same time, FANUC America announced it will be working with Osaro, a US company specializing in artificial intelligence-driven robots, to develop solutions for warehouse management and e-commerce.9