Small Industry

Publication List of this Subject

In the course of Japan’s industrialization that began in the 1870s, industries such as steel-making, cotton-spinning, and silk-reeling were the leading sectors. In contrast to these upstream sectors producing basic materials, there existed downstream industries turning out final consumer items or intermediate goods such as machine parts.

Enterprises in these industries were small in size and most of their products were produced through intensive use of labor and sometimes depended on the labor of members of the owner’s family. The total number of enterprises and employees in these small industries surpassed those in the leading sectors.

The most significant feature of these small enterprises (and one that remains important today) was that they took a positive view of introducing advanced technology obtained from overseas. Moreover they readily digested foreign technology and altered it to suit Japanese circumstances. This continuing skill at “adaptation” has been one of the strengths of innovation in technology in Japanese industry since 1945.

This study group takes shell button production, brush production, and the hosiery and bicycle industries as case studies, and examines the transformation of technology and the various resulting changes in social relations.