Monday, August 24, 2009

[東京都 p17 ] The Lost Decade (失われた10年)

photos by Shibakouen Hamutaro

Setting Sun (Japan: What went wrong?)
By Paul Krugman
(posted Thursday, June 11, 1998)

"In an early-'90s Dilbert, an excessively trendy manager exhorted his team to "search for excellence in the total quality chaos, or whatever the Japanese are doing this month." Only a few years ago, the business sections of airport bookstores were largely given over to tracts revealing the supposed secrets of Japanese management and the menace Japan posed to the United States. Then it turned out the Japanese were human, after all, and everyone lost interest. Western pundits, having once placed Japan on a pedestal, now either prefer not to discuss the subject or see Japan's failures mainly as an occasion for smug self-congratulation.

But the new story is much more interesting than the old one. How could a wealthy, productive, sophisticated country have gone from enviable growth in the 1980s to stagnation in the '90s, and now be slipping into a downward spiral of recession and deflation? True, Japan is not a country on the edge of chaos--as Indonesia or Russia is--but that only adds to the mystery. Japan isn't a place where the state is weak, unable to collect taxes or convince investors that their property rights are secure. Nor is it a country at the mercy of skittish foreign investors who must be persuaded to roll over its debt: Japan is still the world's largest creditor. So what's the explanation?

Inefficiency? Japan has many inefficiencies that limit its productive capacity--too many mom-and-pop stores, not enough computerization in the office, and so on--but inefficiency per se is not the immediate problem. What Japan lacks right now is not supply but demand: Japan's consumers and investors just aren't spending enough to keep the country's shops and factories busy.

And the usual remedies for inadequate demand aren't working. Interest rates have been pushed down almost as far as they can go. Like the Fed, the Bank of Japan normally targets the interest rate on overnight loans that banks make to each other. The difference is that this rate is more than 5 percent here, but basically zero there. The big public spending projects the Japanese government launches every now and then do create some jobs, but they never seem to yield enough bang for the yen: The economy keeps relapsing, while government debt keeps mounting."
-- Paul Krugman

"The early period, also referred to as the 'new golden age of Japanese architecture', saw a spectacular overproduction of unusual buildings and urban complexes in Japan's major cities; while the period that followed, around the mid-1990s, shows work that demonstrated a sense of modesty, restraint and 'earthly' innovation. The Bubble era was pioneered by names such as Arata Isozaki, Tadao Ando, Fumihiko Maki, Kazuo Shinohara, Toyo Ito, Hiroshi Hara and Shin Takamatsu. With the Japanese economy booming, there was huge investment in fantastical and often very experimental urban building projects. However, by 1993 financial recession had started to gain a firm grip on the country, affecting it on every level. Japan began restructuring its economy and, as a consequence, social, cultural and architectural changes took place on a big scale. Architects throughout Japan started experimenting and building in new ways. Environmental and ecological concerns led to the development of innovative materials and technologies. This backlash against the overdevelopment and spending that took place in earlier years was led by established figures such as Toyo Ito, Tadao Ando, Fumihiko Maki, Ryoji Suzuki, as well as emerging architects including Kengo Kuma, Jun Aoki, Shigeru Ban, Kazuyo Sejima and others."
-- Beyond the Bubble : The New Japanese Architecture

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