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Japan’s Lost Decade

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Podcast by NPR

Last month, Japan’s central bank raised interest rates for the first time in 17 years. That is a really big deal, because it means that one of the spookiest stories in modern economics might finally have an ending.

Back in the 1980s, Japan performed something of an economic miracle. It transformed itself into the number two economy in the world. From Walkmans to Toyotas, the U.S. was awash in Japanese imports. And Japanese companies went on a spending spree. Sony bought up Columbia Pictures. Mitsubishi became the new majority owners of Rockefeller Center.

But in the early 1990s, it all came to a sudden halt. Japan went from being one of the fastest growing countries in the world to one of the slowest. And this economic stagnation went on and on and on. For decades.

On this episode, the unnerving story of Japan’s Lost Decades: How did one of the most advanced economies in the world just fall down one day — and not be able to get up? Japan’s predicament changed our understanding of what can go wrong in a modern economy. And gave us some new tools to try and deal with it.

This episode was hosted by Jeff Guo. It was produced by Emma Peaslee and engineered by Cena Loffredo. It was edited by Molly Messick. Alex Goldmark is Planet Money’s executive producer.

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