Japan, Seeking to Regain Manufacturing Might, Bets on Aerospace

GIFU, Japan — Kato Manufacturing, based in the blue-collar enclave of Gifu Prefecture, in central Japan, is a microcosm of the country’s industrial evolution.

The family-run metal shop, which was started 128 years ago, originally made simple farming tools for what was then a largely agrarian society. When Japan morphed into a manufacturing giant, churning out automobiles and electronics for the world, Kato supplied the metallic equivalent of skeletons: sculpted frames and housings that gave products their shape.

Now, as Japan aggressively tries to regain some of its manufacturing might in the face of competition from lower-cost countries like China, Kato is producing parts for airplanes. The company recently installed new metalworking machinery and hired a half-dozen workers to accommodate orders from domestic aircraft makers.

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