This book is concerned with Japan's historical development: we thus begin by describing the historical development of the book itself. This, we believe, is the only way to properly acknowledge our debt.
The study started when Richard R. Nelson held the first of a series of conferences on the 'National Innovation Systems'. Goto had been invited to present his view on Japan but, owing to illness just a week before the conference, he asked Odagiri, then at the London Business School, to attend the conference in his place. This experience led the two of us to present a paper together on the 'Japanese System of Innovation' at the second conference in Maastricht, The Netherlands. Fortunately, we received a number of insightful comments at this conference. Especially instrumental in deciding the future course of our study was Christopher Freeman, who observed with amusement that 90 per cent of the American paper written by David Mowery and Nathan Rosenberg was about the past, and 10 per cent about today, whereas 90 per cent of the Japanese paper was about today and 1-0 per cent about the future. He rightly suggested that the Japanese paper should pay more attention to the historical aspects.
Accordingly, we decided to add a historical discussion of technological development in Japan. In our view, some of the major players, if not the major players in shaping the Japanese innovation system (if there is in fact a Japanese system), have been the entrepreneurs and industrialists. Believing that their role can be fully understood only through case studies, we studied three industries (iron and steel, electrical equipment, and automobiles) besides Japan's industrial and technological development in general. The result was our chapter "The Japanese System of Innovation: Past, Present, and Future" in National Innovation Systems (ed. R. R. Nelson, Oxford University Press, 1993).
Through this investigation of the process of Japan's technological accumulation and industrial development, we learned much and decided to pursue the study further by adding several new case studies, expanding the previous case studies, and aiming to give a detailed and comprehensive view--not necessarily an orthodox one--of the process of Japan's development. The result is this book.