GS1 Japan was founded in 1972 mainly through the efforts of the then Ministry of International Trade and Industry (present Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry or METI) as the Distribution System Research Institute (DSRI), a non-profit organization for promoting the introduction of distribution systems and rationalizing and increasing the efficiency of supply chains. At first, the institute conducted studies on the standardization of national product codes for apparel and grocery. Following the move towards standardized symbols as well as product codes in the U.S. and Europe, the institute started working to build a system for standardized product codes and symbols in Japan. Then in 1978, it applied for participation in EAN Association and was admitted as the first member except European countries.

In the second half of the 1970s, GS1 Japan paved a way to adopt EAN system in Japan, starting with the introduction of EAN symbols into the Japanese Industrial Standards (JIS). Source marking was tested with cooperation from Kikkoman Corporation (a soy sauce manufacturer), Coca-Cola Japan, Kai Corporation (a cutlery manufacturer), while retailers began to conduct storefront experiments with POS system.

In the 1980s, Jusco Co., Ltd. (present AEON Co., Ltd.), Co-op supermarket stores and other retailers conducted pilots on the POS system. GS1 Japan held many seminars on EAN system and POS system throughout Japan and encouraged stakeholders to adopt source marking.

The important milestone for the widespread use of source marking was the fact that, in 1982, Seven-Eleven Japan, a convenience store chain, adopted POS system at all of its stores (which totaled 1,650 at that time, but are about 12,800 at present). Another factor contributing to the diffusion of POS system was the introduction of consumption tax in 1989. GS1 Japan created study groups for several industries in the 1980s and worked together with these industries to study how to improve their business process using computer systems. These industries included processed foods, sporting goods, consumer electronics, and books and magazines. A study group of wholesalers was also established by organizing representatives from different industries. These study groups soon came to cooperate in the adoption of EAN standards.
In addition, it is worth noting that GS1 Japan started the service for collecting and providing POS data and began to operate the Japan Item Code File Service (JICFS), the product catalogue, as early as in the mid-1980s.

During the 1990s, GS1 Japan studied product codes, EDI messages and other subjects in cooperation with the apparel industry under METI-funded study of quick response (QR) system. Retailers used to assign their proprietary code to apparel products. Our joint study with the apparel industry led to the diffusion of EAN source marking on apparel products. It was also a landmark event when the GS1-128 was introduced for the labeling of crates containing various products delivered to department stores. The Japanese EDI messages, JEDICOS, based on the EANCOM was also completed around that time.

In the 2000s a new business model was established in Japan in which convenience stores acted as agencies for receiving public utility payments from customers. As the tool for realizing this service, the GS1-128 was adopted on the bills for the public utility charges. And the meat industry also decided to adopt the GS1- 128 for its standard labels for traceability. The second half of 2000s was characterized by the fact that the GTIN began to be used for the online music service, an intangible product, and that Internet and mail order companies started to adopt the GTIN for their product management purposes. During the 2003-2009 period, GS1 Japan founded EPCglobal Japan and worked to solve the problems of introducing RFIDs tags into various industries (e.g., apparel, footwear, books, consumer electronics, and international distribution) by supporting METI's RFID pilot programs and thus established the basis for the diffusion of RFID.

In 2009, GS1 Healthcare Japan was established as a voluntary group for promoting GS1 Standards in healthcare sector. This move can be regarded as the outcome of our pioneering activities after the late 1990s, including our publication of guidelines for the use of the GS1 System for medical devices in cooperation with the healthcare industry. In the area of EDI, GS1 Japan created an XMLformat EDI standard (Ryutsu BMS) for supporting domestic business practices and has worked to spread the standard together with 49 trade organizations. There have been new developments in several recent years. As public interest in food safety has increased, GS1 Japan started a joint study with Japanese supermarkets and supplychain stakeholders on the use of GS1 DataBar including pilot testing of the symbol with discounted price or sellby-hour information at retail stores. In 2015, GS1 Japan launched the program “GS1 Japan Partners”, aiming to share information and best practices among solution providers.

In 2017, GS1 Japan hosted GS1 Asia Pacific Regional Forum in Tokyo where more than 80 people attended from GS1 GO and 18 AP MOs.