The Digital Galapagos

Japan’s Digital Media and Digital Content Economy

  • Carin Holroyd University of Saskatchewan
Keywords: Japan, digital content, digital media, animation, anime, e-commerce, mobile internet, video games


For over two decades, Japan has been a leading nation in the development of the digital economy. The country’s business development in mobile computing, video games and animation led the world. While this prominent role continues, the country has struggled with a “digital island” reality in three areas: the wireless industry, which tried but failed to expand globally; an active but Japan-focused digital content sector; and digital services, which have not expanded as expected to non-Japanese markets. This article examines the evolution of Japan’s digital media and digital content sector which has created significant global interest but less business development than expected. The article argues that Japan’s “Galapagos” reality reflects the inherently (but not exclusively) culture and language-specific characteristics of the digital content economy and the country’s largely inward-looking culture industries.

Author Biography

Carin Holroyd, University of Saskatchewan

Carin Holroyd is President, Japan Studies Association of Canada and Associate Professor, Department of Political Studies, University of Saskatchewan. She has published extensively on aspects of Japan’s international trade, commercial relations with Canada and national innovation policies in Japan. Her books include Government, International Trade and Laissez Faire Capitalism: Canada, Australia and New Zealand’s Relations with Japan (McGill Queen’s University Press, 2002) and co-authored with Ken Coates, Japan and the Internet Revolution (Palgrave Macmillan, 2003), Innovation Nation: Japanese Science and Technology in the 21st Century (Palgrave Macmillan, 2007), Digital Media in East Asia: National Innovation and the Transformation of a Region (Cambria Press, 2012), and the Global Digital Economy (Cambria Press, 2015). Her most recent book, Green Japan: Environmental Technologies, Innovation Policy and the Pursuit of Green Growth, will be released by the University of Toronto Press in 2018.

How to Cite
Holroyd, C. (2018). The Digital Galapagos. Japan Studies Association Journal, 15(1), 41-65. Retrieved from
Contemporary Society