The Japanese economy : From riches to rags
In 1989, the "Japanese miracle" sounded like one of the few hackneyed phrases that lived up to its name. Japan's industries, toughened by competition in the international arena, and using new techniques like "total quality management," "just-in-time inventory" and "niche marketing" seemed on the verge of taking over the world.
So too did Japanese financial institutions. Japanese life insurers were buying up huge quantities of US Treasury bonds, Japanese banks were inflating their balance sheets at a high rate, and Japan's stock market capitalization exceeded that of America's. It seemed that Japan would soon buy up all of America.
But the growth in Japan's financial markets soon imploded like a giant Ponzi scheme. By 1992 the stock market had dropped 65 percent and Japanese banks were scrambling to shore up their balance sheets. Much of this happened because Japan's financial institutions, unlike their industrial cousins, grew up in an environment of protection rather than harsh competition. Now Japanese financial firms are trying to cope with new techniques like "securitization," "arbitrage" and "interest rate swaps" which western financial institutions invented to survive a tough competitive environment. This paper details the carefully regulated world of Japanese finance before 1980, and how increases in government debt and changes in corporate finance during the 1980s lead to the deregulation and disorder that now pervade Japan's financial markets.