A recent survey posted by GMAC shows the number of GMAT tests taken by Japanese citizens during TY2012 (meaning 7/1/2011 to 6/31/2012) increased over the previous year. Here are the numbers:
TY2012 - 2,835 GMAT tests taken by Japanese citizens
TY2011 - 2,518
TY2010 - 2,680
TY2009 - 2,938
TY2008 - 2,935
TY2012 represented a 12% increase over the previous year, and the first increase since TY2009 (which only had 3 most tests taken than 2008). There are, to me, numerous reasons why this is the case. Of them all a growing realization amongst Japanese firms and their staff that new business = global business has got to rank near the top. This doesn't mean that there aren't opportunities in the domestic market - Japan remains the 3rd largest economy in the world. But it does show that the "outward gaze" is taking hold amongst those in their late 20s or early 30s for whom b-school is an option.
Of course, the big question is how the number of GMAT tests taken will impact the number of applications to MBA programs amongst Japanese citizens for programs starting in 2013. It is too early to tell. One thing we do know however is that whatever that volume is, it will most likely be to an increasingly diverse range of programs. From the same GMAC survey, the percentage of those GMAT reports coming from Japanese to US programs went from 77.23% in TY2008 to only 67.31% in TY2012. On the other hand, GMAT reports sent to Singapore, Spain and Hong Kong collectively went from about 3% of the total in TY2008 to about 9% in TY2012, a threefold increase.
So - more Japanese are sitting for the GMAT, and they're tending to apply to a more diverse range of programs. Both to me are good signs for the future.
Read the GMAC survey here.