Japan: Reinventing Japan

Information disclosure, judicial activism and citizen’s organisations are shocking the traditional ways of doing things in Japan. Cosy relationships between gangsters, big business and government are changing as the country fights to recover its economic drive.

The World Today Updated 15 October 2020 Published 1 June 2005 5 minute READ

Jeff Kingston

Author of Japan's Quiet Transformation: Social Change and Civil Society in the 21st century, Routledge, 2004

For the past fifteen years japan has been mired in a deep recession. It is hard to imagine that in the late 1980s the economy was humming along and bookstores were jammed with volumes explaining the secrets of the country’s success and the virtues of its management style. While the rest of the global economy swooned, Japan seemingly went from strength to strength.

It was portrayed as an economic juggernaut and some pundits predicted increasing dominance and a Pax Nipponica. Exhibiting perfect timing, Bill Emmott, now editor of the Economist, broke with conventional wisdom and predicted in his 1990 book, The Sun Also Sets, that the system was unsustainable.

With stunning speed and severity the economy promptly imploded. The Nikkei stock average and land prices plummeted, unemployment and bankruptcies soared and the banking system teetered on the edge of insolvency because borrowers could no longer service their debts.

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