This article examines how, in the course of modernization, Japan learned from Germany and Britain about ideas and institutions concerning social reform, and attempted to implement and develop them at home. It focuses on Fukuda Tokuzo, a pioneering liberal economist and social reformer, who studied under the German historical economist Lujo Brentano, and who was also inspired by the British scholars Alfred Marshall, A. C. Pigou, and J. A. Hobson. By examining how Fukuda's ideas and work were developed and assimilated in Japan, this article shows how Japanese social reformers navigated the two key strands of economic thinking that witnessed a process of globalization during this period: neoclassical welfare economics, on the one hand, and an ethical-historical style of economics, on the other. It shows how the latter was stronger in a latecomer country to modernization such as Japan.