D. Eleanor Westney
The rapid expansion of Japanese multinational enterprises in the 1980s changed the nature of competition in several major industries and attracted wide popular and scholarly attention. Japanese MNEs are arguably the most studied population of MNEs next to those from the United States, and in some aspects—particularly the extent to which home country practices and systems are carried across borders—they have been more exhaustively analyzed than those from any other country. In part, the volume of research can be attributed to the rapidity of the emergence of Japanese firms as international competitors, and in part to the fact that they constitute the first population of non-Western MNEs. But perhaps the most significant factor is that they are seen to differ significantly from both US and European MNEs, and this has attracted attention from a broad spectrum of researchers: International Business scholars for whom the Japanese MNE is a special case of the MNE; scholars of Japanese business for whom it is a special case of Japanese management and organization; and researchers in comparative organizations and the sociology of work, for whom the efforts of Japanese MNEs to instill their systems in their subsidiaries provide a rich case of change in established patterns of work practices and management systems.
Summarizing this extensive literature poses a formidable challenge. This chapter tries to accomplish three things. First, it provides an overview of the scope, timing, and destination of Japanese foreign direct investment (FDI)—three of the fundamental topics of interest in international business—in order to supply a basic map of when and where Japanese