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This article examines the drivers of the long‐run structural transformation in Japan. It uses a dynamic input–output framework that decomposes the reallocation of the total output across sectors into two components: the demand side and the supply side, or technological change. To perform this task, we employ 13 seven‐sector input–output tables spanning 100 years (1885 to 1985). The results show that the demand‐side factors, as a combination of the Baumol and Engel effects, were the key explanatory factors in more than 60 per cent of the sector‐period cases in the pre‐Second World War period, while the supply‐side effect drove structural transformation in more than 75 per cent of such cases in the post‐Second World War period. Detailed decomposition results suggest that in most of the sectors, changes in private consumption were the dominant force behind the demand‐side explanations. The demand effect was found to be strongest in the commerce and services sector, which contributed to the rapid growth of GDP in Japan throughout the twentieth century.