I dug out, and have been watching, some video tapes I took in 1991. At the time, there were news stories about worsening economic conditions, and 1991 is listed as the year that the "bubble economy burst", but for most people living here, it was just headlines and not something that directly affected their lives personally. Actually, the land price and stock price rocket ride was also just a TV story for most people (what percentage of the population was actively buying land and/or stocks?)
Now - writing this from 2008, the repercussions of the excesses (the peak seems to have been in 1989), have long since sunk in and are still being felt, and it's something that has directly affected a lot of people by this point. What is striking to me as I watch the 1991 video footage (many hours of it all taken all over Tokyo and in the surrounding countryside), is how the main body of the population was still awakening from a more austere Japan around 1986-91, and how - in 2007-08 - the seriousness of things is just starting to sink in for many people. Simply put, in one sense, during the "good times", people were in more of a mindset of struggle-to-survive, and in the current semi-bad times, people are still riding a richer lifestyle?
I'm not verbalizing the thought very well, but (one more try) there seems to be both overlap-lag (carryover from the preceding era) and realization-lag (it takes a while for a change to sink in). Add to that the opposite....
Last night on the train, I was feeling melancholy about the commute (I don't really like becoming a vertical sardine for three hours every day), and since I had gotten on last at one station (I had to get off to allow biped flow from the inner part of train away from the doors), I was standing next to one of the eight (four per side) doors. I leaned against the door (doors actually - two per opening) and idly looked into the window; simultaneously seeing the outside flowing by and the other people in the train. I noticed that people seemed to be feeling the same subdued feeling... almost a foreboding of worse times ahead? Has the two-decade long string of often bad economic news sunk in to our bones, or are we feeling an air change brought on by a coming storm (hopefully not tsunami)?
Lyle (Hiroshi) Saxon