Great article in the NYT regarding the lessons Japan offers the world - kinda like the basket case local who parents use as a bogeyman - "don't mess up your economy and going in to an economic downward spiral - or you might end up like Japan."
My experience of Japan has always been extraordinarily positive, but there are strange things that point to this kind of decay that you simply don't see around the UK (as I found when I tried to find parallel examples of this for my talk at Ignite London). Seeing photos of Tomo and Kazue's trip this summer, while much of it was as bright and exciting as ever, other parts, like the photos of the water park showed a rot that is there, in the edges. Hard to pinpoint, but a bit too rusty there, or the paint is a little more faded than you expect.
The problem is that the narrative is one that is set to the framework of the endless expansion that capitalism requires. The idea that a country could downshift en-mass is not given any credibility. But if a country that once fucked itself utter by living beyond reason (the property price bubble was truly stupendous - I mean, really) then decides to behave economically sensibly for a while, no bad thing, surely.
In fact, many of the indicators that people point to in Japan are simply the same as we are seeing elsewhere, only in sharper relief - young people are more reluctant to leave the nest in Japan than anywhere else, but it's a common problem globally. Dwellings in Japan, due to the population concentration, have always been small, but I'd say that a country with good internet connectivity and excellent public transport is probably better placed to disperse and equalise this than some others.
What I'm interested to know is if the 20 year spiral of decay could ever really be a threat if it shared across other countries. When it was just Japan, a fairly insular country at the best of times, it was not much for the rest of the world to take action on, but nor was it a genuinely large problem. When you have several countries running the same risk, then as an economic block the results could be quite different - trade within those countries is more of an option and the dynamic interplay of several nations could have quite a different effect than that of deflation in a single, isolated economic block, particularly when members of that block have considerably greater clout and stronger brands internationally.