I write all of these articles on a MacBook because it’s quick, looks nice, and is insanely powerful. The other day when I was coming back from Tokyo after researching another article idea, I realized how few people I’d seen using apple laptops. In fact, I’ve been living here for half a year now and I don’t think I’ve seen one person use one. I’ve seen people watch and game on ipads and iPhones, but not MacBooks. So it got me thinking, what are the best Japanese laptop brands? Or at least the most popular ones? …Or failing that, just the most interesting ones I’ve never heard of!
Laptop Culture in Japan
Technically there’s no such thing as ‘Laptop Culture’ in Japan, but people certainly use them far differently than they do in the UK and I’d hazard a guess that it’s different from the US as well. If you need to get some work done on your laptop, I wouldn’t be shocked to find you working in a cafe, or perhaps on a long train ride, but people in Japan take thing to the next level.
I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve seen people work on their laptops while standing up at very busy subway stations, walking in the center of tokyo, and standing up inside trains at rush hour. It’s absolutely bizarre but it shows just how important it is for the computers Japanese people use to be ideal for work. And yes, before you ask, I do wish I had pictures of them working in the middle of rush hour!
Ranked as the fourth-largest IT vendor in the world, Fujitsu is highly invested in Computing, Networks, AI, Data & Security, and Converging Technologies. Unlike the laptop above that I’ve taken a photo of, Fujitsu laptops are actually incredibly sleek and look like they’re from this decade. Their most popular models, the life books, come with detachable screens, 360-degree hinges, and touch screens.
Some of the models weigh only 634g which makes them perfect for the traveling businessman (the target demographic in Japan), though the price leaves a lot to be desired. At a suggested retail price of ¥480,400 ($3,572.73), this Japanese brand laptop had best do all my work for me as well! Of course, not all of the models are this expensive, but you’ll certainly be paying a premium for anything like this with such a range of features.
The overall brand is praised in numerous Japanese forums for being incredibly reliable. One unlucky person somehow managed to run his Japanese laptop over with an office chair and spill water on it twice – no damage to speak of!
Website: us.dynabook.com (Toshiba sells laptops under dynabook now)
Toshiba laptops, later rebranded to Dynabook in 2019 (as we’ll find out soon!), were a pretty popular choice for buying laptops in Japan even if they weren’t the greatest machines of their time. Specs were adequate, and many people reported them to be durable and reliable for their intended, mostly business, use.
Unfortunately, some of the models (like most Japanese laptop brands I’m sure) didn’t hit the mark. The R (pictured above) and Z series took the brunt of this problem with many complaining they were just too heavy, expensive, and had absolutely no specialty. As we know, most laptops are purely for business use in Japan which means weight is an incredibly important factor for most people. Get that wrong and you’ll miss the mark entirely.
So while I probably wouldn’t suggest picking up a Toshiba brand laptop anytime soon, they’re definitely an important piece of Japanese laptop brand history worth learning about.
3. Dynabook Inc.
After the rebrand, Dynabook Inc. was born and they went on to create some of the most powerful and lightweight business laptops on the market. Not only are these laptops incredibly robust and reliable (an absolute must for business laptops in Japan!), but they also have a very long battery life for those trips where you’re away from a charger for a prolonged period of time. Of course, this is a fairly generalized statement but on the whole, these Japanese laptops perform very well.
They’ve also managed to improve on their customer service from before they had the rebrand. Creating excellent products is one thing, but being able to look after your customers to help keep them loyal to the brand is another thing entirely. Something that’s sadly an afterthought!
Founded in 1899 in Tokyo by Kunihiko Iwadare, NEC remains a popular laptop brand in Japan. While you won’t see this brand much outside of Japan, you’ll find them in practically all electronic shops in the laptop section within the country. Anywhere like BIC Camera, Yodobashi Camera or Softmap should have plenty.
Their products are reliable enough, though not groundbreaking in any area of technology. Their most notable laptop, the VersaPro is pretty good but when comparing it to similar Japanese laptops from the other brands on this list, they’re sadly nothing special. While you won’t be disappoint if you’re looking for a reliable laptop from Japan, there are other options to choose from if you’re looking for something more interesting.
VAIO is a PC brand by Sony that was discontinued in 2014 due to poor sales. At this point, VAIO became its own entity and continued producing laptops. Perhaps this wasn’t the best idea because when I typed ‘Are VAIO good laptops’ into google, the first result suggests the midrange models (marketed at the majority of people) were “too slow, too dim, too dull, and too tacky”. A Japanese laptop brand can be as popular as it wants but with a review like that, I’m going to start asking questions.
Other, less brutal reviews suggest they’re a little overpriced and underequipped when compared to similar models from other companies. Perhaps they’re completely fine for casual word processing and internet browsing, but anything more and you may start to notice a lapse in performance. Though the same engineers from the original VAIO brand have seen it through, it’s clear that a lot of consumers feel the quality has declined and some of the newer models are a far cry from how they started.
I guarantee 99% of you reading this have never heard of MouseComputer. As far as I can tell, it’s actually a relatively popular brand in Japan. Not that everyone over here has heard of it, but it’s definitely stocked in some of the bigger electronic stores. They also offer custom-built rigs which is a bit of a surprise considering they aren’t a Japanese PC gaming brand.
They’re most well known for the development and manufacture of peripheral computers but also build some pretty solid Japanese laptops. Plus, they have funny names like “Mouse C4” and “Mouse K5” – that makes it worth it, right? Joking aside, I can’t find too much information about these guys in terms of reviews, but I have seen their products a number of times while I’ve been out in Tokyo.
From a Japanese laptop brand, you’ve probably never heard of, to one I’d be surprised if you haven’t! Panasonic has been featured a number of times in our Japanese brand articles, and for good reason. They produce products for almost every area of life including Japanese air conditioners, Japanese speakers, and cameras to name just a few. Of course, appearing on this list means they also produce laptops – incredible good ones at that. If I had to pick one brand on this laptop to suggest purchasing (or at least the most popular in Japan) it would be between Fujitsu and Panasonic’s Let’s Note series.
These bad boys look like they were made in the early 2000s, and while the product line was first introduced in 1996, the tech inside has definitely evolved. The demographic, like most of these Japanese laptops, is businessmen. Other than highly reliable equipment, one of the biggest requirements for these kinds of laptops is the battery life.
People commute huge distances in Japan, sometimes from Osaka to Tokyo, and that requires hardware that can work for hours at a time. One of its 2018 releases claimed to get up to 21 hours of life which is huge! Oh and as it’s Japan you can expect a few pieces of ‘older’ tech thrown in for good measure. Ports include VGA, Ethernet, a Headphone jack, USB, and a DVD Burner. Yup, a literal DVD burner inside a Japanese laptop. Honestly, it’s a little redundant for most people, but I flipping love it!
Kohjinsha is another Japanese laptop brand I haven’t been able to find too much about, but it was interesting enough to put it on this list. I only stumbled across the brand because I found one in a junk bin in one of Akihabara’s electronic shops – the kind of shop you have to walk down a few long and unassuming alleys for.
Side note, I actually do recommend walking down a few strange alleyways in Akihabara if it’s to get to Yusha Kobo Keyboard Specialty Shop. That place is seriously cool if you’re after a custom keyboard!
After doing a bit more research when I returned back home, I don’t actually know if they’re still in business, and I’m eering on the assumption that they aren’t. However, the extra small type of ‘laptops’ that look like they’re nothing but spell checkers is found in some of the bigger electric shops in Japan. So, who knows?
In my opinion, one of the coolest products this company has ever made is the DZ series laptops. What starts out as a simple 10.1-inch business laptop (tacky, yet practical plastic body included!) ends up as a dual 10.1-inch business machine. I’m not aware of any other laptop brand that had this capability at the same time, and it was certainly a great way for business people to be more productive. Or at least feel and look like they were!
It’s clear that the majority of Japanese laptops are geared toward the working professional. None of them will win any design competition, but as far as practicality, reliability, and productivity are concerned, they’re some of the top computers in the market. At least for those living and working in Japan, for the rest of the world I wonder if DVD burners would ever be included in a new build? Doubtful!