Why do some Japanese company names end in Co. Ltd?

In American it would just be Corp, so that suggests they are following the British system. But the short form for a Limited Company in British English is just Ltd, and I don’t think I’d even seen Co. Ltd. before I came to Japan. Some total guesses:

It is set in Japanese law as the official English translation of yugen kaisha (有限会社- lit. ownership limited company), like the also odd Diet and Prefecture.

or

It used to be that in British English, and has changed in the UK but not in Japan.

Both me and my Japanese students are dying to hear more theories on this one.

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1 Comment

  1. July 28, 2008 at 5:43 am

    If you look at the the English translation of Japanese companies liste don the first a nd second section of the TSE you will find a random mix of Corp and Co. Ltd.
    The later is the British influence but most of them ar Kabushiki Kaisha (K.K.), Yugen Kaisha are usually Mom and Pop outfits and now getting rarer since can be established with as little capital as 100 yen(Though cost of registration may be Yen300K). As KK is not directly equivalent to either a US Corporation or a Britich Cp. Ltd. (or even plc), why not leave as K.K. and let the reader figure it out ?


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