Japan: Ubiquitous Mitsui

Japan's Mitsui & Co., Ltd., manufactures nothing, retails nothing. It is, instead, one of the globe's great middle men. "If anyone anywhere in the world has anything to sell or buy," says a recent company ad, "we are at his service." Mitsui makes good on that promise by providing commercial services for business ventures of every kind. Last year the 300-year-old firm turned an $8.1 million profit by handling transactions totaling $4.5 billion, solidifying itself in the process as the biggest of Japan's 6,400 trading companies.

All-purpose trading companies are to Japan's economy what the convention industry is to Atlantic...

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