That seemingly endless miracle of the modern world, the Japanese economic boom, is at last falling into line with the rest of the world and slowing down.
That seemingly endless miracle of the modern world, the Japanese economic boom, is at last falling into line with the rest of the world and slowing down. The easy-going, spendthrift consumer boom which had typified Japan in the last decade is no more.
The era of cheap labour upon which the Japanese miracle was founded, passed cut of sight as wages in Japan rose to keep pace with a rising standard of living. But it was the shock of drastic increases in oil prices which put Japanese industry back on its heals.
Japan is the world's biggest importer of oil and other raw materials and the effect of the new oil politics and the spiralling of world raw material prices has been dramatic.
Last month alone, more than a thousand companies throughout Japan went bankrupt. Among those who have already collapsed this year are makers of consumer items like central heating, textiles and cameras.
Many companies have severely cut back on overtime for workers and on fringe benefits for its managerial staff. This has come as a severe blow to the fundamental Japanese industrial ethic, whereby companies normally undertake to provide lifetime work and care for their employees.
As a result, the Japanese citizen is having to get used to keeping his car longer, foregoing the new refrigerator and taking a bus instead of a taxi. One factory near Tokyo is doing boom business in renovating ice boxes for re-sale - a trade which only a year ago would hardly have been viable.
Another sign of the slow-down can be seen at car factories, where new vehicles are stacked in every available parking space instead of being rushed to the showrooms, as they were previously.
The recession is hitting at both Japanese pockets and pride. When a textile factory in central Japan recently closed its doors, it produced an amazing response for the stunned workforce. Many who turned out on the streets to demonstrate were weeping while others burned the company flag in an exhibition of grief.
Individually, Japanese housewives are much more inclined to be selective in their trips to market - in contrast to recent years when shopping in Japan was a matter of how much one could carry rather than how much one could afford.
Today, the word inflation is at the forefront of conversation in Japan as it is in most other countries of the world and the fight against inflation there is a real one.
Nevertheless, Japan still has massive reserves of foreign exchange, and its overseas trade is still profitable. Compared to the economies of Britain, Italy and even the United States, Japan is well cushioned by years of prosperity. But ??? here, the chilly realities of modern economics are beginning to bite.