Why are there so many retail stores in Japan?

Despite the steady shrinkage of the small retail sector in Japan, it’s coming off a high base. So why has there historically been so many small retail stores in Japan anyway? Why have they survived until now?

This is a question that many newcomers to Japan ask — and this classic article answers it.

It’s by economist David Flath from way back in 1990. If equations scare you, just skip over that part. The descriptive and analytical parts are clear and provide the historical-political and lifestyle reasons why Japan has such an abundance of small shops compared with other developed economies. It has something to do with geography, density, the fact people live in such cramped homes — and of course, government support.

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