One of the most remarkable features of Japan’s modern history is the speed, scale and apparent success of the growth of industry. There is evidence of industrial and commercial development long before the modern period, but the past century has transformed Japan from a predominantly rural country into a highly industri­ alized one. The current debate over how far other countries can learn from Japan’s experience makes it particularly important to see Japan’s postwar industrial expansion in the context of the country’s longer term industrial development.