At the risk of being boring and repetitious, I see the same problems in India and Southeast Asia that I saw in my previous foe: the Middle East and Africa. There certainly are companies that will do well in this region, but there are not many for investors to select from.

The developed countries of Japan, South Korea, and Singapore offer plenty of opportunities. As do Australia and New Zealand, which here are grouped in developed Asia: I'm conveniently ignoring the fact that every social studies class I had from first grade on up treated Australia as a separate continent.

Buy after they're beaten down
The beauty of writing about developed Asia right now is that a number of markets have taken an absolute thrashing. In Japan, which is the second-largest economy in the world, the market has fallen about 20% from its peak earlier this year. American Depositary Receipts of many Japanese companies trade in the U.S., giving investors many 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. It's always possible to stay with New York Stock Exchange- and Nasdaq-listed ADRs and move to South Korea and consider a company such as Income Investor selection Posco (NYSE:PKX), which is also 20% 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 to global powers. Companies in Southeast Asia and India must now do so in the shadow of these already powerful companies. 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 goods from Kao, a Japanese company, that were manufactured in Thailand.

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 unless the valuation is right.

Foolish final minute
Yes, the developed countries of Asia are filled with many well-known names that many investors follow, 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 are going to come out of Japan in the next five to 10 years.

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Developed Asia is facing India and Southeast Asia in this Investing World Cup second-round match. Go back to the intro page to navigate your way to another part of this contest, and then vote for the region that you think should advance to the final round of the tournament!

At the time of publication, Nathan Parmelee had no financial interest in any of the companies mentioned.

This article represents the opinion of one Fool and should in no way be taken as the opinion of either The Motley Fool, Inc., or the company in question, or as representative of anyone or anything other than that specific Fool's thoughts. So before buying, do your homework and review The Motley Fool's superbly sportsmanlike disclosure policy .