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It turns out to be basically the same two reasons as with German beer: namely, local tastes creating local monopolies, and government policies. The Japanese are fanatics for fresh foods. Any of you who have been to Japan, as my wife and I were in October, will remember what it says on Japanese containers. In the United States, when you go to the supermarket, there's one date on the container, the date by which you're supposed to throw away that bottle of milk. In Japan there are three dates on the container: there's the date when the milk was manufactured, and there's the date when the milk arrived at the supermarket, and then there's the date when the milk should be thrown away, and these dates are in big letters; the Japanese really care about the dates. So the result is that milk production in Japan always starts at one minute past midnight, so that the milk that goes to market that morning is today's milk. If milk had been produced at 11:59 p.m., the milk company would have to stamp on its container that this milk was made yesterday, and no Japanese person would buy it. The result is again that Japanese food-processing industries enjoy local monopolies. Obviously, a milk producer up in Hokkaido, northern Japan, is not going to be able to compete in Kyushu, in southern Japan, with a Kyushu producer, because of the several days in transit from Hokkaido. By the time a carton arrives in Kyushu, the people will read on the container that this milk is three days old, and no Japanese person would buy it.
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Essentially the same thing happened in China with clocks: one emperor's decision abolished clocks over China. China was also on the verge of building powerful water-powered machinery before the Industrial Revolution in Britain, but the emperor said "Stop," and so that was the end of the water-powered machinery in China. In contrast, in Europe there were princes who said no to electric lighting, or to printing, or to guns. And, yes, in certain principalities for a while printing was suppressed. But because Europe in the Renaissance was divided among 2,000 principalities, it was never the case that there was one idiot in command of all Europe who could abolish a whole technology. Inventors had lots of chances, there was always competition between different states, and when one state tried something out that proved valuable, the other states saw the opportunity and adopted it. So the real question is, why was China chronically unified, and why was Europe chronically disunified? Why is Europe disunified to this day?