Technology in the electrical and communications equipment industry is usually considered to be more science-based (that is, 'high-tech') and, hence, more distant from traditional crafts technology than textiles and iron. Nevertheless, the industry is another case where imported Western technology combined with Japan's indigenous technology as well as its own R&D efforts.
At least two factors explain why such a combination was effective when the industry started to develop in Japan. The first is the legacy of the Tokugawa era: sophisticated craft skills and technological knowledge in machine engineering that had been maintained prior to the Restoration (see Section 1.7) helped the Japanese to copy imported products and learn through reverse-engineering. In fact, one of the first Japanese to make a telegraph after the Western technology came exactly from this tradition, as we will show.
The second is the timing. Although, as in other industries, Japan was technologically behind America and Europe in the late nineteenth century when electrical and communications equipment started to be developed, the lag was not desperately large. Take the example of electric light. T. W. Swan invented an electric incandescent bulb in 1878 in the UK as did T. A. Edison in 1879 in the USA. Japan started its effort to produce these bulbs not long after. Similarly, the first telephone receiver was manufactured in Japan only two years after Bell's invention in 1876. Put differently, the mid- to late nineteenth century when Japan started to introduce Western technology following the Meiji Restoration, was also the time when several path-breaking innovations were made by Edison, Morse, Bell, and others in the use of electricity.
Thus, the technology was still rather primitive and could be learned by skilled Japanese craftsmen and engineers through reverse-engineering.