As Malaysia continues to enjoy the benefits accrued from the Look East Policy introduced in 1982, the country still finds more opportunities opening for its continued development.
WHEN former Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad announced the "Look East Policy" three decades ago, it was aimed at directing the Malaysian government towards studying, researching and subsequently, choosing policies and implementation examples from Japan and South Korea with the intention of localising such initiatives to suit the Malaysian situation.
Tun Dr Mahathir continues to espouse the work ethics and business techniques of the Japanese and Koreans which steered them to achieve great success and continue to do so.
"Japan, as you know," the former premier said last year, "is a country which lost a war ... totally destroyed but as it rebuilt itself, it became the second biggest economy in the world.
"If you want to copy or learn something, learn from the successful people, not from the failures," he said.
Japan's catastrophic earthquake and tsunami, followed by a nuclear power plant meltdown last year which claimed thousands of lives and crippled many businesses, was yet another show of collective resilience by the Japanese people in rebuilding lives and the economy.
In their resolve to rebuild, the Japanese have yet again set a high bar for the world and Malaysia can continue to look to the East in learning from this neighbour.
When deputy minister of International Trade of Industry Datuk Mukhriz Mahathir led a trade and investment mission to Kyoto and Nagoya in April, he pointed to the fact that Malaysia can expect more investments from Japan, as the country moves into its second wave of the Look East Policy introduced by his father.
Using the unfortunate Japanese earthquake and tsunami last year as a case in point, he said the Japanese firms he had engaged with were in search of alternative production bases.
In convincing Japanese businesses in Kyoto - some of which whose histories date back to over a century with the merits of parking their businesses in Malaysia - Mukhriz said he received investment pledges worth some RM200 million.
The bulk of the pledged funds - via fresh investments and reinvestments - are said to be in the electrical and electronics sector.
Last year, Japan was the biggest source of foreign direct investment (FDI) into Malaysia's manufacturing industry with 77 projects worth RM10.1 billion, reflecting a rise of 150 per cent of the total FDI approved by the Ministry of International Trade and Industry.
This year, the Northern Corridor Implementation Authority (NCIA) can attest to the seal of approval granted by Japanese firms to local companies operating in the northern states.
NCIA facilitated two committed reinvestments into Malaysia - one from MRT Japan Co Ltd and the other from Science Net Co Ltd - for Penang and Kedah, respectively.
MRT Japan, which is involved in the marketing of fruits, vegetables and horticulture, had invested RM35 million in two green cultivation houses of rock melons, chillies and Japanese pumpkins in Kuala Kura (Kedah) and Ara Kuda (Penang).
The company is set to invest another RM100 million over the next three years to cater to strong demand for its products, especially from the Japanese globally.
Penang-based Global Outreach Energy Sdn Bhd and Japanese partner Useful Person (subsidiary of Science Net) are set to further invest RM107 million to expand a light-emitting diode facility by 20,000 sq ft facility from its current 8,000 sq ft.
Mindful of the potential of wooing more Japanese companies to the northern region, NCIA has also been keeping tabs on the country's automotive industry and how Malaysia can serve as an alternative production base, following the massive flooding in Thailand at the end of last year.
Also to remember is the fact that Japanese companies played a vital role in Penang's industrial journey four decades ago, when names like Clarion and Hitachi chose to site their offshore operations in Malaysia.
As the world's third largest economy gets back on its feet after the earthquake, Malaysia still has every reason to continue looking East and take a leaf from the book of a country which never compromises on quality and have always managed to recover and reconstruct their damaged communities and businesses.