Japan: Shift to High Gear

When a superhighway linking Tokyo with the Mount Fuji resort area opened last month, Japanese officials predicted that it would cut travel time from four-hours to 90 minutes. Instead, bumper-to-bumper traffic clogged the new road so quickly that irate motorists began calling it "The Fuji Slowway."

The episode reflects the phenomenal rise of Japan's auto industry, which last year leaped ahead of shipbuilding, steel and electrical equipment to become the largest in the country. Last week the Japan Auto Manufacturers Association reported that Japan's twelve automakers produced 4,198,429 cars, trucks and buses...