It is a distant memory in the 80's that Japanese DRAM vendors dominated the world, and U.S. government pressed Japanese government to slow down the export to the US. As a result, "US-Japan semiconductor pact" was signed to limit the export, which actually worked as an effective cartel and sustained the price of DRAM during that period.
After the pact term of 10 years was over, the market crashed. During this cartel period, Korean manufacturers invested heavily and marketed aggressively, and they quickly surpassed Japanese makers.
Two struggling Japanese semiconductor vendors decided to consolidate together to save the situation. The semiconductor divisions of NEC and Hitachi got together and created Elpida Memory. As a rare case among mergers of major Japanese companies, it has been doing relatively well for the past 10 years. They are currently ranked #3 among the DRAM vendors in the world.
However, with the global economic meltdown, they have to consolidate again. This time, maybe because there seem to be no other good Japanese partners, Elpida is talking to three Taiwanese vendors - Powerchip Semiconductor, Rexchip Electronics, and ProMOS Technologies according to Nikkei newspaper. Taiwanese government will provide financial support to these companies, and Elpida is considering for help from Japanese government. The combined entity will rise up to the #2 player, behind Samsung.
So there we go. After a full circle, once-mighty Japanese DRAM industry is coming to the end of the end, I guess. No particular opinion about itself, but looking back the time when I came to the US in the 80's, I can't help but remember those days. Time flows like water in the river, and it is not the same water anymore.