Japan's financial institutions and policy underwent remarkable change in the past decade. The country began the 1990s with a heavily regulated financial system managed by an unchallenged Ministry of Finance and ended the decade with a Big Bang financial market reform, a complete restructuring of its regulatory financial institutions, and an independent central bank. These reforms have taken place amid recession and rising unemployment, collapsing asset prices, a looming banking crisis, and the lowest interest rates in the industrial world.
A comparative perspective and an analytic approach grounded in mainstream economics distinguish this broad, accessible introduction to the Japanese economy. Throughout, Ito utilizes standard economic concepts in comparing Japan with the United States in terms of economic performances, underlying institutions, and government policies.
Japan, the world's second largest economy, has suffered from a prolonged period of stagnation and malaise since 1991. Subpar growth, failing banks, plummeting real estate and stock prices, deflation, unprecedented unemployment, and huge government liabilities have persisted, despite extraordinary fiscal and monetary policy fixes.