Upstart Industrialization and Exports, Japan 1880-1910

49 Pages Posted: 5 Jun 2017 Last revised: 28 Feb 2021

See all articles by Christopher M. Meissner

Christopher M. Meissner

University of California, Davis

John P. Tang

ANU Research School of Economics

Date Written: June 2017


Japanese exports between 1880 and 1910 increased massively in volume, changed composition, and shifted away from leading industrialized countries toward poorer Asian neighbors. The product mix also varied with the level of development of the destination, with new products and specializations more likely to ship to less developed regional economies. Using a new disaggregated data set of the bilateral-product level exports for the universe of Japanese trade partners, we find that changes in various extensive margins (new markets, new goods) account for over 30 percent of export growth over this period. Determinants of initial entry include trade costs and market size. Products started in a small number of markets and accumulated additional destinations building on earlier successes. Subsequent entry was also influenced by product-level characteristics interacting with destination-specific characteristics. We confirm that export growth for “new” products was stronger in LDCs than in advanced economies, but the latter still claimed a larger share of overall trade growth. There is little evidence that Japan exported low quality manufactured goods to new, low-income destinations. Instead, reductions in trade costs helped Japan augment market share. Exit is relatively rare but appears to be determined by market-specific demand-side effects and product-specific factors.

Suggested Citation

Meissner, Christopher M. and Tang, John P., Upstart Industrialization and Exports, Japan 1880-1910 (June 2017). NBER Working Paper No. w23481, Available at SSRN:

Christopher M. Meissner (Contact Author)

University of California, Davis ( email )

One Shields Avenue
Apt 153
Davis, CA 95616
United States

John P. Tang

ANU Research School of Economics ( email )

LF Crisp Building 26
Canberra, Australian Capital Territory 0200

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