Research suggests that since the 1980s, both the United States and Europe have experienced a simultaneous expansion in social entrepreneurship. In the early 2000s, a new breed of social entrepreneurship emerged in Japan. A careful reflection on the movement will reveal that there were many manifestations of social entrepreneurship in premodern Japan as well. This paper analyzes the historical perspective and the current trends in social entrepreneurship in Japan. In particular, the paper presents what we call a 'three-generation model' of the primary drivers of social entrepreneurship in Japan, and a theoretical model of innovation to answer the following questions: (i) How has Japanese social entrepreneurship been developed and who are the primary drivers in the process of development? (ii) What are the characteristics of Japanese social entrepreneurship as compared with those in the United States and Europe, and what are the social contexts generating the differences? (iii) What are the characteristics of the innovation aspect of Japanese social entrepreneurship, and why is innovation particularly important in the institutional context of Japanese society?.
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