The Japanese stock market hit an all time high at the end of December 1989, just after the collapse of the Berlin Wall, and the execution of the Romanian leader Nicolae Ceausescu and his wife Elena.
Germany and Romania enjoyed better times after East Germany was slowly absorbed into the West, and Romania has managed to enjoy the fruits of EU membership.
However, Japan, since 1990, faced a slow and painful adjustment to the real world after its boom in the 1980’s where land prices in Tokyo literally went through the roof, and big banks and major companies went global big time.
The stock exchange index fell from 40 000 in 1989 to 10 000 in 2003, and recovery from then has been slow and fitful – the stock market is now standing at around 21 000 today.
Japan has seen economic stagnation, an ageing population, lost jobs, with salary men ousted from their homes and living in parks, metro stations, alongside rivers and roads, and a political scene scared by corruption and inability to do what is necessary.
North Korea’s threats and the present Prime Minister, Mr. Abe, have been the wake up call that have slowly moved Japan from being an economic laggard to one with first attempts to manage economic reforms.
Japan is a conservative country, which like China, measures time, not with years but with Decades. They have an inward looking culture and language that are still steeped in tradition. The young and old respect historical and cultural values even though they appear occasionally to break through the the this thick traditional cover with the latest fashions and electronics.
The recent election just confirms their conservative habits. The Governor of Tokyo energised the October 2017 elections by suddenly announcing the formation of a new right-wing party called the Party of Hope and like the True Finns’ mutineers, the Blue Future Group, they did not succeed in getting the sort of support they expected. Their result in the election was around 10% of the seats in the Diet, way below what the polls were forecasting.
The Liberal Democrats, led by Mr. Abe, achieved a comfortable majority and will continue for another 4 years. However, they too did not reach the heights they were aiming for. Scandals and indecision have plagued Japanese politics for years, and large worthies of voters do not trust their government.
Never-the-less they feel safer with Mr. Abe because the actions of North Korea are seriously troubling people. There is even talk that the Japanese Constitution may change the status of the army from being a “Defence Force” to that of a normal Army. That is another important matter for voters, many of whom want to see the defence forces as a foundation for pacifism and not as an aggressive military force.
The newly elected government led by Mr. Abe will probably continue this path towards a more assertive stance – more reforms, and a bigger role for Japan in world affairs.
Japan and the Nordics understand each other well – we are natural partners that enjoy low profiles in global matters, we both understand the hard-headed nature of international trading, we also have strong faith in hard work and education, where the family is still an essential part of our lives. Yes we consume but we also want to have a true sustainable and clean environment.
More of the same, will be the future over the next few years…