Japan has the 2nd largest economy in the world. Japan is a prosperous country and has the most diverse economy in Asia. With a GDP of $4.9 trillion in 2005, Japan's economy is 2nd only to that of the U.S. The leading Japanese companies are among the largest, most efficiently run, and most well-known firms in the world. Familiar names like Sony, Toshiba, Sanyo, Casio, Canon, Minolta, Honda, Toyota, Mitsubishi, and many others have infiltrated the world market in a variety of sectors. Whether you're in the field of business, engineering, manufacturing, research, economics, or politics, chances are you will be competing with, if not working for, a Japanese entity. Knowing Japanese brings business opportunities because Japanese consumers spend 100s of billions of dollars each year on consumer goods and services like food, clothing, travel, and entertainment. The typical household has over $100,000 in savings and a disposable monthly income of $3,800. With all of that cash to spend, it is perhaps not surprising then that the United States exports more goods and services to Japan than any other overseas destination. In 2004, exports to Japan accounted for $54 billion of the U.S. GDP. In addition to these exports, 1000s of U.S. companies have successful branches in Japan. In 2004 alone, U.S. businesses spent $78 billion in direct investment in Japan. Being able to communicate with potential customers in their own language is key to winning their business. In addition, when you learn Japanese, you become not only proficient in the language but also gain an insider view of the culture. Understanding the Japanese work ethic, their business etiquette, and knowing which cultural faux pas to avoid can often make or break an important business deal. Japanese is a gateway to other Asian languages & cultures. Throughout its history, Japan has been shaped by the influence of Asia's great civilizations: India, China, and Korea. While the cultures of these Asian countries do differ, Asian cultures together share many similarities that differentiate them from Western ways and norms. So a study of Japanese can open your perspective on the values that other Asian nations share with Japan, including religious beliefs, ethics, and aesthetics. A familiarity with Asian cultures also allows you to step outside the culture you live in and see it from a fresh, new perspective. Japanese-speakers are the Internet's 3rd largest language group. The Japanese make up the third largest language community on the Internet, after only English and Chinese speakers. An estimated 88 million Japanese, or 9.6% of the world's online population, are connected to the Internet. Knowing Japanese can connect you to these people in an instant. They may just be future friends or acquaintances, business associates, or even the market that you or your future employer hopes to target.