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Half of all Japan’s household assets of ¥1,500 trillion (around $20 trillion) are parked in the safety of cash and bank deposits. Only 6% of assets are in equities, compared with 32% in America..... There are good reasons to be prudent. The stockmarket remains three-quarters off its 1989 peak; property prices have fallen for almost 20 consecutive years. The best investment over that time has been Japanese government bonds, admits Atsushi Saito, the boss of the Tokyo Stock Exchange. A decade of deflation has meant that the value of cash in the bank has soared in real terms.
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JAPAN, one of the great exporting nations, usually runs a trade deficit with, of all places, Switzerland. Why? Ask Rolex. Japan also buys more from France and Italy than it sells there. Why? Bordeaux, Brie, mascarpone and Armani, to name a few expensive vices. In Japan such delicacies are mostly immune to deflation, --- Businesses needed to bring more old people and women into jobs, to counter the decline in the working-age population. They also needed to go beyond the concept of monozukuri—the well-honed skill of making things—to shikake zukuri, which he described as the creation of products that attract demand by telling a new story, as Sony once did with the Walkman. --- And he favours tax reform to encourage them to bequeath their money to their grandchildren, rather than their children. One of the flipsides of longevity, he points out, is that the average age of those who inherit is a grand old 67.
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Macroeconomically, the main parallel is the massive shift in private and government saving. Japan’s asset bust left a gaping hole in corporate balance-sheets. As firms spent years paying down debt, the economy had to be supported by a large and persistent increase in government borrowing (see chart). On average, Japan’s government has run a structural fiscal deficit of more than 5% of potential GDP every year since 1993.