[japan@ihj] Before the Big Four: Competition and Industrial Policy in Japan’s Postwar Motorcycle Industry, 1945-70

  • Speaker: Jeffrey W. Alexander, Associate Professor, University of Wisconsin-Parkside
  • Moderator: Fujimoto Takahiro, Professor, Graduate School of Economics,
  • Faculty of Economics, The University of Tokyo
  • Date: Tuesday, July 5, 2011, 7:00 – 8:30 pm
  • Venue: Lecture Hall, International House of Japan
  • Admission: Free
  • Language: English (no Japanese translation provided)

Japan’s postwar economic growth and industrial policy have been examined in a variety of studies focusing upon the Ministry of International Trade and Industry (MITI) and the activities of dozens of successful manufacturing firms. While these studies have made critical contributions to the literature of MBA programs worldwide, their preoccupation with success has produced a distinctly one-sided “victor’s history.”

When examining the oral testimony of the entrepreneurs who headed some of the 200 motorcycle manufacturers who were driven out of business by Honda, Yamaha, Suzuki, and Kawasaki, however, we discover that Japan’s postwar industrial community was more complex, better organized, and more ruthlessly competitive than the existing literature indicates. An intensifying price-war, a series of betrayals and broken “gentlemen’s agreements,” and the impact of industry-driven competition forced several dozen makers out of business before 1970–and reveals that MITI’s later effort to prepare Japan’s automotive sector to compete in international markets was a virtual afterthought. In this lecture, Dr. Alexander will talk about alternate stories behind the success of Japan’s postwar motorcycle industry.

Jeffrey W. Alexander

Jeffrey W. AlexanderJeffrey W. Alexander: Received his Ph.D. in History from the University of British Columbia. His research explores Japan’s history through the eyes of its leading manufacturers. His major publications include Japan’s Motorcycle Wars: An Industry History (UBC Press & University of Hawai’i Press, 2008). Currently, he is finalizing his book on Japan’s beer industry.