About WCBH

The congress will be held as Joint Congress of the Business History Society of Japan (BHSJ) and the European Business History Association (EBHA).

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Business History Society of Japan: Past and Present

The Business History Society of Japan (BHSJ) was founded in November 1964. The initial membership was 257 in September 1965 but now stands at around 800 members. As one of the 210 council members of the the Science Council of Japan, BHSJ is expected to report its activities to the public as well as its members. The founders established the BHSJ to explore and understand the features of Japanese companies, which were becoming increasingly present in world markets during the high growth period (mid-1950s to 1973). Professors Yoshitaro Wakimura and Kei-ichiro Nakagawa played a significant role in its establishment. Wakimura, who began research on business history in the prewar days, is considered to be a pioneer in the field. Nakagawa was one of the first researchers to introduce methodologies to Japan for the study of business history, which were developed in the United States in the 1960s, and opened up a new research area, comparative business history. BHSJ members continue to build on the seminal work of the founders as well as present and publish new research described below.

(1) Conferences, Workshops, and Journal

BHSJ currently organizes an annual conference and regional workshops in Hokkaido, Tohoku, Kanto, Chubu, Kansai, and Western Japan (Kyushu). Regional workshops are held approximately ten times per year. In addition to regular workshop presentations, joint meetings following a new book launch and special workshops for invited overseas guest researchers are also organized each year. BHSJ publishes Keieishigaku (Japan Business History Review) in Japanese four times a year and Japan Research in Business History (JRBH) in English once a year.

(2) Fuji Conference and Publications

Thanks to the generous financial support of the Taniguchi Foundation, in 1974, BHSJ held the first in a long series of Fuji Conferences, the purpose of which was to encourage exchanges between Japanese and overseas scholars. At the first Fuji Conference, there were 10 presentations by Japanese business historians and two by presenters invited from overseas, Alfred D. Chandler Jr. of Harvard Business School and Charles Wilson of Cambridge University. The Fuji Conferences have greatly contributed to the internationalization of BHSJ through the publication of the Fuji Conference Proceedings by the University of Tokyo Press (20 volumes) and Oxford University Press (five volumes). The dissolution of the Taniguchi Foundation in 1998, however, made it difficult to hold the Fuji Conference every year. BHSJ has nonetheless endeavored to continue the Fuji Conference tradition under a new name, the International Conference on Business History, held once every three years. In addition to this conference, BHSJ has also hosted bilateral business history workshops with scholars from other countries such as the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Korea, Thailand, etc.

BHSJ published Keieishigaku no 20 nen (Twenty Years of Business History) in 1985 with the University of Tokyo Press and Keieishigaku no 50 nen (Fifty Years of Business History) in 2015 with Nihon Keizai Hyoron-sha, in order to record and reflect upon business history research in Japan. Until the 1980s, one of BHSJ’s main missions was to encourage scholarly research on the salient features of Japanese companies from an international comparative perspective. However, the long economic stagnation since the 1990s had a significant impact on the focus of BHSJ’s activities. Some members of BHSJ started to research on various forms of business, including small and medium-sized enterprises, industrial clusters, and family business. The scope of the geographical focus has also expanded from the West to Asia. In recent years, the dynamics of Japanese companies over the last 500 years since the early modern era has been attracting an increasing number of business historians as a ‘new’ research topic.

(3) Overseas Exchanges

Many BHSJ members study foreign companies in Asia, Europe, and the Americas. Their research has enriched the Society’s knowledge of overseas business and societies and has also contributed to a deepening of the understanding of the role of Japanese firms overseas. It is BHSJ’s role and responsibility to promote the dissemination of these valuable findings to researchers overseas through academic exchanges. A number of members participated in the First World Congress on Business History held in Bergen (Norway) in 2016. In September 2020, the Second World Congress on Business History will be held at Nanzan University in Nagoya, Japan. BHSJ will continue in its commitment to fostering exchanges with business history societies around the world, advancing the study of business history from a global perspective, and sharing members’ findings with other business historians worldwide.



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