Japan May Get Its Own Rust Belt

In the mid-1980s, Japan's steel industry was forecasting a steady, long-term drop in demand. But Nippon Steel Corp. wasn't going to let the decline stop its growth. "Our grand design is to diversify as soon as possible," said a Nippon Steel planner in 1988. And Japan's other four major steelmakers quickly followed suit. They would all spend millions to become theme-park operators, computer makers, software designers, semiconductor fabricators, direct marketers, and even pig farmers. In turn, those new ventures would easily absorb the workers no longer needed in the steel business.

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