Working in Japan as a foreign correspondent, as I did three decades ago for The Economist and as David Pilling did brilliantly for the Financial Times from 2002 to 2008, can be a frustrating business. You quickly realise that the big news about Japan is that there’s no actual ‘news’ there. Or, more precisely, that Japan is a culture of processes and evolutions, not big events, flashy announcements and dramas. This makes it all the more fascinating, but produces another phenomenon, born out of frustration: a yearning, prevalent among foreign observers and also many Japanese, for a big exception to this rule – an event, even a crisis, that might accelerate these processes and produce a sudden transformation.
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