In the mid 1980s, there was a remarkable economic boom in Japan, which was mainly influenced by money and security prices as well a profitable real estate market. By the late 1980s, it appeared as if the country would emerge as the world’s dominant economy. The good economic times brought social problems such as a breakdown of cultural order due to increasing access to luxury among various demographics. Another issue was that the country was grappling with a declining youth and an aging work force due to a sharp decline in birthrates. The government tried to solve these problems by reviving health policies and pension schemes to cater to the elderly population. The declining youth workforce also meant that the establishment was considering a reevaluation of women’s role in the workplace. Furthermore, the government encouraged the setting up of homes and other facilities for the elderly in anticipation of high retirement rates.
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After the bubble burst in 1991, most of the blame went to the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP). By the year 1993, the party was crumbling under the aftermath of the collapsing economy. Consequently, the party lost control of the government for the first time since 1955. The years after 1991 are often referred to as ‘the lost decade’ because they represent an era of both political and economic uncertainty. The Bubble Burst economy was also the source of social strife within the country. Women and youth continued to suffer under cultural restrictions that limited their creativity and input to the economy.
On 11th of March 2011, Japan was hit by a record earthquake that resulted in a devastating Tsunami. As if these two disasters were not bad enough, the Tsunami and the earthquake led to the Fukushima Nuclear Disaster. Eventually, fatalities from these disasters amounted to 20,000 and the destruction of properties ran into billions of dollars (Samuels 14). The events of March 11 contributed to widespread changes in the Japanese society and government. The disasters were the culminating events after two decades of economic and political meltdown in Japan. In the midst of the March 11 disaster, a political reformation occurred. This wave of political change was mainly motivated by the urge to return Japan to its former glory. Most of these reforms were aimed at reclaiming government influence on national security, local governance, and energy policies. These reforms were received with mixed reactions because one group felt there were knee-jerk reactions to a once-in-a-millennium event. The other group was of the opinion that the right leadership could illuminate Japan’s path to lost glory.
Prime Minister Abe Shinzo took over Japan’s leadership in 2012 and immediately embarked on revival efforts. Some of these efforts included instituting fiscal and monetary stimulus in a bid to elevate liquidity. In the short-term, Abe Shinzo was successful in resuscitating the economy. However, in the long-term these changes could end up achieving mediocre success. For example, these revolutionary measures have so far been responsible for a number of budget deficits. Currently, most of the March 11 inspired fiscal changes have so far been repealed. The disaster only inspired the Japanese to do what they should have been trying to do in the first place. Eventually, one of these radical changes might work thereby making March 11 politically significant.
Samuels, Richard. 3.11: Disaster and Change in Japan. Cornell University Press, 2013.