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SoftBank Group Corp.’s Vision Fund has invested its $100 billion cash pile in 75 unicorns around the world. Not a single one is from Japan, its own backyard.

That may be because the pickings are slim: While the U.S. has 179 unicorns, China 93 and India 18, Japan has just two, according to CB Insights. How can a country that pioneered the Walkman and android robots fail to produce more valuable startups? The explanation may be somewhat arcane, but helps get to the bottom of a damaging cycle that’s left Japan with an uninspiring pool of fledgling innovators.

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