This paper investigates the development and diffusion of photovoltaic (PV) technology in Japan and The Netherlands. Both cases are analysed with the Technological Innovation Systems (TIS) framework, which focuses on a particular technology and includes all those factors that influence the development and diffusion of a technology. This framework proposes seven System Functions; key processes that need to be fulfilled for a TIS to function well. We include international factors in the framework such as import share, export activities, foreign direct investment and international knowledge exchange. Japan is found to have a well functioning PV TIS with a strong industry and a large market for PV, whereas the Dutch have so far established considerably less. Based on the differences in the cases we formulate a number of lessons for the Dutch PV TIS. 1) System functions such as guidance of the search (F4) and advocacy coalitions (F7) need to be strengthened in order to reinforce each other in a positive way; 2) formulate, maintain and translate consistent long-term goals into long-term policies and stimulation measures in order to allow a gradual build-up of networks and skills/expertise; 3) build up and maintain legitimacy within the institutional setting; and 4) strengthen the TIS in order for the SMEs to grow in terms of capital and capabilities.