Skip to main content Accessibility help

Twentieth-Century Enterprise Forms: Japan in Comparative Perspective



La Porta et al. see common law as most favorable to corporate development and economic growth, but Japanese legislators explicitly based their system on German civil law. However, Japan’s commercial code of 1899 omitted the GmbH (private company) form, which Guinnane et al. see as the jewel in the crown of Germany’s organizational menu. Neither apparent “mistake” retarded Japan’s adoption of the corporate form, because its commercial code offered flexible governance and liability options, implemented liberally. It was this liberal flexibility, not choice of legal family or hybrid corporate forms emphasized by previous writers, that drove corporatization forward in Japan and more widely. Surprisingly (given that Germany’s superficially fuller organizational menu predated Japan’s by many decades and the country was wealthier), by the 1930s Japan already had not only more corporations than Germany, but also more commandite partnerships (with some corporate characteristics). After the introduction of the yugen kaisha (private company) in 1940, corporate forms became nearly as widely used in Japan as in the United States, United Kingdom, or Switzerland.

  • View HTML
    • Send article to Kindle

      To send this article to your Kindle, first ensure is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about sending to your Kindle. Find out more about sending to your Kindle.

      Note you can select to send to either the or variations. ‘’ emails are free but can only be sent to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

      Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

      Twentieth-Century Enterprise Forms: Japan in Comparative Perspective
      Available formats

      Send article to Dropbox

      To send this article to your Dropbox account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Dropbox.

      Twentieth-Century Enterprise Forms: Japan in Comparative Perspective
      Available formats

      Send article to Google Drive

      To send this article to your Google Drive account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Google Drive.

      Twentieth-Century Enterprise Forms: Japan in Comparative Perspective
      Available formats



Hide All
Atack, J. and Neal, L., eds. The Origins and Development of Financial Markets and Institutions. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2009.
Bank of Japan. Hundred-Year Statistics of the Japanese Economy. Tokyo: Statistics Department, Bank of Japan, 1966.
Bokhanov, A. N. Krupnaia burzhuaziia Rossii: konets XIXv.–1914 g (The Upper Bourgeoisie of Russia: From the End of the Nineteenth Century to 1914), Moscow: Nauka, 1992.
Bozio, A. La Capitalisation Boursière en France au XXe Siècle. Mémoire de DEA. Paris: EHESS, Ecole Normale Supérieure, ENSAE, Ecole Polytechnique, 2002.
Colpan, A. M., Hikino, T., and Lincoln, J. R., eds. The Oxford Handbook of Business Groups. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010.
Crane, J. A. Handbook on the Law of Partnerships and other Unincorporated Associations. St. Paul, MN: West Publishing, 1938.
de Becker, J. E. Annotated Civil Code of Japan, vol. 2. Yokohama: Butterworth & Co., 1909.
Department of Commerce and Industry. Kaisha Tōkeihyo [Company Statistics]. Tokyo: Tokeigakusha, 1920–1941.
Feinstein, C. H. National Income, Expenditure and Output 1855–1965, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1972.
Fohlin, C. Finance Capitalism and Germany’s Rise to Industrial Power. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2007.
Fränkel, F. Die Gesellscaft mit beschränkter Haftung: eine volkswirtschafliche Studie. Tübingen: Mohr, 1915.
Hadley, E. M. Antitrust in Japan. Princeton NJ: Princeton University Press, 1970.
Jamieson, G. Chinese Family and Commercial Law. Shanghai: Kelly and Walsh, 1921.
Liefmann, R. Kartelle, Konzerne und Trusts. Stuttgart: Ernst Heinrich Moritz, 1930.
Lindley, N. A Treatise on the Law of Partnership, 2 nd American ed., vol. 1, edited by Ewell, M. D.. Chicago: Callaghan, 1888.
Management and Coordination Agency, Statistics Bureau. Historical Statistics of Japan (5 vols.). Tokyo: Japan Statistical Association, 1988.
Mayer, C. Firm Commitment: Why the Corporation Is Failing Us and How to Restore Trust in It. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013.
Ministère du Commerce, de l’Industrie et des Colonies. Congrès International des Sociétés par Actions: Compte-rendu Sténographique. Paris: Rousseau, 1890.
Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications, Statistical Branch, Historical Statistics of Japan (5 vols.). Tokyo: Japan Statistical Association, 2006.
Mizoguchi, H. Toki tetsuzuki komon: shinsei shoshiki iri, daisho irazu [Consulting about Registration: with Application Formats]. Tokyo: Sankosha, 1936.
Morikawa, H. Zaibatsu: The Rise and Fall of Family Enterprise Groups in Japan. Tokyo: University of Tokyo Press, 1992.
National Resources Committee. The Structure of the American Economy. Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1939.
North, D. C., Wallis, J. J., and Weingast, B. R.. Violence and Social Orders: A Conceptual Framework for Interpreting Recorded Human History. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2009.
Owen, T. C. The Corporation under Russian Law, 1800–1917. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1991.
Rosenberg, N. and Birdzell, L. E. Jr. How the West Grew Rich. New York: Basic Books, 1986.
Smith, J. W. A Handy Book on the Law of Private Trading Partnerships. London: Effingham Wilson, 1908.
Stamp, J. C. British Incomes and Property, London: Macmillan, 1919.
Takahashi, K. Gendai Taiwan Keizairon (Contemporary Taiwan Economic Essays). Tokyo: Chikura Shobo, 1937.
Tamaki, N. Japanese Banking: A History, 1859–1959. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995.
Tanaka, N., ed. Genko shozei ryokan ruishu: kokumin hikkei [Compilation of Current Taxes and Fees], Tokyo: Tanaka, 1912.
Viander, A., Hilaire, J., Merle, H., and Serbat, H.. La société en commandite entre son passé et son avenir, Paris: Librairies Techniques, 1983.
Vogt, K. and Heath, G. O.. Commercial Code of Japan, 2nd ed. Yokohama: Crosse, Heath & Vogt, 1912.
von Mehren, A. T., ed. Law in Japan: The Legal Order in a Changing Society. Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press, 1963.
Williams, E. T. Recent Chinese Legislation Relating to Commercial Railway and Mining Enterprises. Shanghai: Shanghai Mercury, 1904.
Woytinsky, W. L., Die Welt in Zahlen, vol. 5. Berlin: Mosse, 1926.
Anon, . “Statistique.” Bulletin de statistique et de législation comparée 115 (January1934): 41.
Aoki, M, “Towards an Economic Model of the Japanese Firm.” Journal of Economic Literature 28 (March 1999): 127.
Bank, S. A. and Cheffins, B. R.. “The Corporate Pyramid Fable.” Business History Review 84 (Autumn 2010): 435458.
Baum, H. and Takahashi, E.. “Commercial and Corporate Law in Japan.” In History of Law in Japan Since 1868, edited by Röhl, W., 330401 Leiden: Brill, 2000.
Brav, O. “Access to Capital, Capital Structure and the Funding of the Firm.” Journal of Finance 64, no. 1 (February 2009): 263308.
Bubb, R. “Choosing the Partnership: English Business Organization Law during the Industrial Revolution.” Seattle University Law Review 337 (2015): 237264.
Burhop, C. and Lehmann-Hasemeyer, S. H.. “The Geography of Stock Exchanges in Imperial Germany.” University of Hohenheim FZID Discussion Paper 89 (2014).
Burhop, C., Chambers, D., and Cheffins, B.. “Law, Politics and the Rise and Fall of German Stock Market Development 1870–1938.” University of Cambridge Faculty of Law Working Paper 283, January 2015.
Cheffins, B. R. “Did Law Matter? The Separation of Ownership and Control in the United Kingdom.” Journal of Legal Studies 30, no. 20 (June 2001): 459484.
Churchill, A. C. “Cooperatives in Japan.” Far Eastern Survey 14, no. 15 (August 1946): 204207.
Coffee, J. C. “The Rise of Dispersed Ownership: The Roles of Law and the State in the Separation of Ownership and Control.” Yale Law Journal 111, no. 1 (October 2001): 1282.
Djankov, S., La Porta, R., Lopez de Silanes, F., and Shleifer, A.. “The Regulation of Entry.” Quarterly Journal of Economics 117, no. 1 (2002): 137.
Faccio, M. and Lang, L. H. P.. “The Ultimate Ownership of Western European Corporations.” Journal of Financial Economics 65, no. 3 (2002): 365395.
Fisher, G. M. “The Cooperative Movement in Japan.” Pacific Affairs 11, no. 4 (December 1938): 478491.1—2.
Foreman-Peck, J. and Hannah, L.. “The Diffusion and Impact of the Corporation in 1910.” Economic History Review 68, no. 3 (2014): 962984.
Foreman-Peck, J. and Hannah, L.. “UK Corporate Law and Corporate Governance before 1914: A Re-interpretation.” In Complexity and Crisis in the Financial System: Critical Perspectives on American and British Banking, edited by Hollow, M., Akinbami, F., and Michie, R, Chapter 7 (forthcoming, Edward Elgar, 2015).
Franks, J., Mayer, C., and Miyajima, H.. “The Ownership of Japanese Corporations in the 20th Century.” Review of Financial Studies 27, no. 9 (2014): 25802625.
Fruin, M. The Japanese Enterprise System. Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press, 1990.
Guinnane, T. W., Harris, R., Lamoreaux, N., and Rosenthal, J-L. “Putting the Corporation in its Place.” Enterprise and Society 8 (September 2007): 687729.
Guinnane, T. W., Harris, R., Lamoreaux, N., and Rosenthal, J-L. “Pouvoir et propriété dans l’entreprise: pour une histoire internationale des societies à responsabilité limitée,” Annales 63, 1 (2008): 73110.
Hamao, Y., Hoshi, T., and Okazaki, T.. “Listing Policy and Development of the Tokyo Stock Exchange in the Pre-War Period.” In Financial Sector Development in the Pacific Rim, edited by Ito, T. and Rose, A. K., 5195. Chicago: NBER/University of Chicago Press, 2009.
Hannah, L. “A Global Census of Corporations: Publicly Quoted and Close Companies in 1910.” Economic History Review 68, no. 2 (2015): 548573.
Hannah, L. “Corporations in the US and Europe, 1790–1860.” Business History 56, no. 6 (September 2014): 865899.
Hannah, L. “Weimar’s Capitalist Spring: A Liberal Exception to Germany’s Sonderweg in Corporate Development.” In Armageddon and Mammon: the Impact of the First World War on International Business, edited by Smith, A., Mollan, S., and Tennent, K.. London: Routledge, 2015, forthcoming.
Hilt, E. “Corporate Governance and the Development of Manufacturing Enterprises in Nineteenth-Century Massachusetts.” NBER Working Paper 20096, May 2014, p. 233.
Hilt, E. “History of American Corporate Governance: Law, Institutions and Politics,” NBER Working Paper 20356, July 2014.
Hilt, E. and O’Banion, K.. “The Limited Partnership in New York, 1822–1858: Partnerships without Kinship.” Journal of Economic History 69, no. 3 (September 2009): 615645.
Kandel, E., Kosenko, K., Morck, R., and Yafeh, Y.. “Business Groups in the United States: A Revised History of Corporate Ownership, Pyramids and Regulation, 1930–1950.” NBER Working Paper No. 19691, December 2013.
Lamoreaux, N. R. and Rosenthal, J-L.. “Legal Regime and Contractual Flexibility: A Comparison of Business’s Organizational Choice in France and the United States during the Era of Industrialization.” American Law and Economics Review 7, no. 1 (March 2005): 2861.
La Porta, R., Lopes-de-Silanes, F., Shleifer, A., and Vishny, R.. “Law and Finance.” Journal of Political Economy 106, no 6 (1998): 11131155.
La Porta, R., Lopes-de-Silanes, F., and Shleifer, A., “The Economic Consequences of Legal Origins.” Journal of Economic Literature 46, no. 2 (June 2008): 285332.
Ministry of Finance. Financial and Economic Annual of Japan. Tokyo: Government Printing Office, various issues, 19001940.
Miwa, Y. and Ramseyer, J. M.. “Corporate Governance in Transitional Economies: Lessons from the Pre-war Japanese Cotton Textile Industry.” Journal of Legal Studies 29, no. 1 (January 2000): 171203.
Miwa, Y. and Ramseyer, J. M.. “The Value of Prominent Directors: Corporate Governance and Bank Access in Transitional Japan.” Journal of Legal Studies 31 (2002): 273301.
Morck, R. K. and Nakamura, M.. “A Frog in a Well Knows Nothing of the Ocean: A History of Corporate Ownership in Japan.” In A History of Corporate Governance around the World, edited by Morck, R. K., 367465. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2007.
Morck, R. “The Riddle of the Great Pyramids.” NBER Working Paper 14858, April 2009.
Musacchio, A. and Turner, J. D.. “Does the Law and Finance Hypothesis Pass the Test of History?” Business History 55, no. 4 (June 2013): 524542.
Nanjo, T. and Kasuya, M. “Part-Paid Stock, Corporate Finance, and Investment: Economic Consequences of the Part-Paid Stock System and Supplementary Installments in Early 1930s Japan.” Monetary and Economic Studies 27 (November 2009): 219246.
Nicholas, T. “The Organization of Enterprise in Japan.” Harvard Business School Working Paper 14017, November 2013.
Okazaki, T. “The Japanese Firm under the Wartime Planned Economy.” In The Japanese Firm, edited by Aoki, M. and Dore, R., 350378. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996.
Okazaki, T. “Corporate Governance.” In The Japanese Economic System and Its Historical Origins, edited by Okazaki, T. and Okuno-Fujiwara, M., 97144. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999.
Okazaki, T. “The Role of Holding Companies in Pre-War Japanese Economic Development: Rethinking Zaibatsu in Perspectives of Corporate Governance.” Social Science Japan Journal 4, no. 2 (2001) 243268.
Papp, R. G. The Development of a Domestic Stock Market in St. Petersburg in Late Imperial Russia. Columbia University PhD dissertation, 2001 (UMI reprint 3005770).
Pistor, K., Keinan, Y., Kleinhesterkamp, J., and West, M. D.. “The Evolution of Corporate Law: A Cross-Country Comparison.” University of Pennsylvania Journal of International Economic Law 23, no. 4 (2002): 791876.
Shimizu, T. “Organizations, Corporations and Shareholders: An Organizational Analysis of the Legal Structure of Business Entities.” Tokyo University Working Paper, 2012.
Shimizu, T.. “Management and Control in Small and Medium-sized Enterprises: The Case of Private Limited Liability Companies in Japan before World War II.” Paper presented at theWorld Business History Conference, Frankfurt, 2014.
Statistisches Jahrbuch für den Preussischen Staat 1911 , Berlin 1912.
Statistisches Reichsamt, “Die Gesellschaften mit beschränkter Haftung am 31 Dezember 1936,” Statistik des Deutschen Reichs, vol. 502, Berlin, 1937.
Takata, A. A. ” From Merchant House to Corporation: The Development of the Modern Corporate Form and the Transformation of Business Organization in Japan, 1853–1912.” Stanford University PhD dissertation, 1994.
Temporary National Economic Committee, Bureaucracy and Trusteeship in Large Corporations, TNEC Monograph no. 11. Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1940.
Yamazaki, K. “Doitsu no yugen sekinin kaisha ni tsuite [On the German GmbH].” Hogaku Kyokai zasshi [Journal of the Law Association], 25, no. 4 (1907): 480494.
Zingales, L. “Does Finance Benefit Society?’ NBER Working Paper no. 20894, January 2015.
Type Description Title
Supplementary materials

Hannah and Kasuya supplementary material S1
Online Appendix

 Word (24 KB)
24 KB


Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed