In this unusually candid book, Japan’s former top financial diplomat asserts the urgent need for wholesale structural reform to revitalize the long-stagnant Japanese economy. Eisuke Sakakibara, whose influence over global currency markets earned him the nickname of “Mr. Yen,” envisions a social and economic revolution that encompasses all sectors of Japanese society. Whereas previous analyses of Japanese policies of the past decade focus narrowly on such issues as nonperforming assets and deregulation, Sakakibara provides a new perspective. Japan’s economic problems are structural, rather than cyclical, according to Sakakibara. Profitable investment opportunities are hard to find in the dysfunctional corporate sector, where costs are high and income continues to decline. The country’s entrenched power elite—the Liberal Democratic Party, the bureaucracy, and vested interest groups—are threatened by reform efforts. It will be difficult to restore economic health to Japan until its political leaders are able to break the grip of this “iron triangle” and implement aggressive, widespread reforms. This book furthers the understanding that structural reform or new institution building in Japan needs an all-encompassing approach that includes the various sectors of Japanese society and the economy. Only with this kind of understanding can pragmatic and meaningful structural reform in Japan be implemented.
Kenneth G. Lieberthal, Cheng Li, Yu Keping
June 4, 2014