Yesterday's edition of The Nikkei highlighted Honda's (NYSE:HMC) recent success in wooing individual investors to pick up its shares.

This isn't the first time I've discovered such a headline in the Japanese press. Many Japanese companies are starting to count on individual shareholders as longer-term owners than their institutional counterparts. Whether this is true or not in the long term is debatable, since it only takes a few patient institutional owners with large stakes to bring ownership stability.

In Japan, round lots are still required for purchase, and companies can set that lot size. Honda and other firms are lowering the lot size required for purchase, or splitting their shares to make them easier for individual investors to purchase. Some companies are also adding online voting for shareholders, making it easy for shareholders to voice their opinions on changes of control or mergers and acquisitions. Finally, some firms are also offering perks to shareholders, including discounts on company services. (Starbucks (NASDAQ:SBUX) and other consumer-oriented U.S. firms have offered such freebies for some time.)

Having lived in Japan, I find this very interesting. Few of the people I worked with or met showed any interest in investing in equities. Many people found it odd that I had so many books on investing and spent so much of my free time on it. More than a few of my wife's friends thought it far too risky. There have been gradual signs of this attitude changing, though. Japan's economy and stock market have begun to recover, and the country's online brokers are now making it easier for individuals to invest.

Some companies will likely court individual investors for the wrong reasons -- in the hopes of fending off future takeover attempts, for example. In the big scheme of things, though, shareholders themselves should benefit from broader individual interest in investing. They'll learn to discern companies with clear disclosures and shareholder-friendly capital allocation, such as Canon (NYSE:CAJ) and Motley Fool Global Gains selection Nissan (NASDAQ:NSNAY), from do-nothing firms with little interest in enhancing shareholder returns. Overall, that's a good thing for any market.

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Nathan Parmelee owns shares in Starbucks, but has no financial interest in any of the other companies mentioned. Starbucks is a Motley Fool Stock Advisor selection. The Motley Fool has an ironclad disclosure policy.