As we await the launch of Motley Fool Global Gains, our new international-investing service, we are taking a look back at some of our best international stock ideas. This article was originally published on June 16, 2006.

The developed countries of Japan, South Korea, and Singapore offer plenty of opportunities. The beauty of writing about developed Asia right now is that a number of markets have taken an absolute thrashing. In Japan, the world's second-largest economy, the market fell about 20% from its peak this summer. American Depositary Receipts of many Japanese companies trade in the U.S., giving investors numerous opportunities to participate in Japan's continued recovery.

I pay some attention to companies in Japan, and for the first time in months, companies such as Honda (NYSE:HMC), Matsushita Electric Industrial (NYSE:MC) (better known as Panasonic), and Orix (NYSE:IX) are beginning to look attractive. If you have access to, and feel comfortable with, sponsored ADRs on the Pink Sheets, companies such as Secom, Toto, Fast Retailing, and Shiseido are all looking much more attractive as well. In addition, it's always possible to stay with New York Stock Exchange- and Nasdaq-listed ADRs and consider a South Korean company such as Motley Fool Income Investor selection Posco (NYSE:PKX), which is also 12% off its highs, and whose dividend yields are about 3%.

Valuation, not potential, matters
That's where I think we see a difference between developed Asia and Southeast Asia and India. Some companies in developed Asia have already grown from nothing into global powers. Companies in Southeast Asia and India must now do so in the shadow of these already powerful firms. Having spent some time traveling in Asia, I can tell you that when you go to the pharmacy to pick up personal-care items, you'll find not only the usual wares from Procter & Gamble (NYSE:PG), but also Thai-manufactured goods from Kao, a Japanese company.

There are additional examples of other Japanese companies expanding into Southeast Asia and China to increase their reach and lower their manufacturing costs as well. It just goes to show that the best way to invest in the future of Southeast Asia might not be to invest in Southeast Asian companies at all -- unless the valuation is right.

Foolish final minute
Yes, the developed countries of Asia are filled with many well-known and well-followed names, but that doesn't mean there aren't plenty of bargains to be had. There's a lot from the media about high-growth areas such as China, India, and the rapidly expanding countries in Southeast Asia, but when I look at how strong the balance sheets have become at many Japanese companies, I can't help thinking that some of the best opportunities in all of Asia will come out of Japan in the next five to 10 years.

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Fool sector head Joey Khattab updated this article, which was written by Nate Parmelee. Joey does not own any shares of the companies mentioned. The Fool has a disclosure policy.