A New York Times opinion piece by Eamonn Fingleton titled "The Myth of Japan's Failure" points out that Japan is often used by western analysts as a cautionary tale to show what can happen if a country adopts the wrong economic policies. Analysts often even talk of a lost decade.
Fingleton points to many facts that contradict this image.Between 1989 and 2009 life expectancy in Japan went from 78.8 years in itself quite good to 83 years. This is a full 4.2 years increase over that time period. The average Japanese can expect to live 4.8 years longer than the average American.
Even in some aspects of the economy the Japanese are far better off than Americans. For example, unemployment in Japan is 4.2 per cent. U.S. unemployment is about twice that rate. Japan has a current account surplus of 196 billion a more than threefold increase since 1989.
Meanwhile the US during the same period went from a current account deficit of 99 billion in 1989 to a humongous 471 billion deficit at present. Fingleton gives many other comparisons and shows that to a considerable extent Japan's supposed economic failure is a myth. The full article is here.