Several years have passed since the 'store wars' over barriers to foreign products at Japanese distribution firms. Yet among English-speaking readers, how these firms operate remains a puzzle. In this book, the best Japanese scholars in their fields attempt to unravel that puzzle. Avoidingculture-based explanations, they employ a systematic and rigorous economic logic---yet, since they also avoid mathematical notation, the argument remains accessible to generalist readers.Collectively, the authors make four basic points:* Within a country, distribution is less similar than it appears. Not only does it vary enormously across industries, but it often varies within a given industry as well.* Across countries, distribution is less diverse than it appears. Although appearances sometimes suggest major cross-national contrasts, on more careful analysis the differences often disappear. * Distribution sometimes depends on the product involved. Because distribution functions as the principal means by which manufacturers acquire information about consumer preferences, the character of distribution can depend crucially both on demand patterns and on manufacturing technology. * In the absence of regulatory intervention, distribution generally will be efficient and non-exclusionary. Regulation usually introduces inefficiency and often creates barriers to entry. Importantly, however, the targets of exclusion will less often involve foreign than domestic competitors.To illustrate these points, the authors draw on both analyses that cross various sectors and analyses that are specific to sectors; they study both regulated and unregulated industries; they describe industries with extensive imports, industries with extensive exports, and industries with neither;they examine the effect of technological change; and they introduce a variety of case studies, from agriculture and automobiles to electrical appliances and apparel.