"The Lost Decade"
Between the 1960s and the 1980s, Japan achieved one of the highest economic growth rates in the world. Confidence was particularly high in the 80s, before the “bubble economy” burst.
An economic bubble is when speculation in a commodity causes the price to increase, encouraging more speculation. Eventually, the price increases to a ludicrous level and the market for the commodity collapses.
As the air was rushing out of Japan’s bubble, East Asia was hit with a serious financial crisis. Japanese companies, who depended heavily on Asia, suddenly felt much poorer. Many people lost their jobs and spending plummeted.
In the 1990s, often referred to as “the lost decade”, the economy was stagnant, growing at an average of 1% a year.
There have been dramatic social consequences. With companies tightening their belts, the days of a comfortable job for life are over. Faced with unemployment or bankruptcy, Japan’s formerly complacent workers are more vulnerable to karoshi or suicide.
Having seen their hard-working parents lose everything, many young people are reluctant to join the traditional corporate grinding mill, taking menial part-time jobs instead. This terrifies the government, but many people hail it as a return to a happier era. People aren’t as rich, but the emphasis is moving away from corporate achievement, towards personal satisfaction.