An Overview of Japan's Modern History from the NHK Archives

1990 Onward: A Society in the Doldrums

Japan's economic bubble burst. Financial institutions were saddled with bad debts. Salaried corporate workers lost their jobs in restructuring. In 1995, the Great Hanshin Earthquake and the Aum religious cult's indiscriminate terrorism seemed to symbolize this gloomier era. Economic stagnation continued; a period that came to be known as Japan's lost 20 years was marked by a breakdown in the system of lifetime employment and by a widening gap between the rich and the poor. In March 2011, an earthquake and a tsunami struck eastern Japan and a critical situation developed at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. The second Abe administration later replaced a short-lived Democratic Party government and launched the Abenomics program for economic recovery. Stock prices rose, and unemployment fell. Tokyo's selection to host the 2020 Olympics gave the Japanese hope for a brighter future.
  • Fires rage after the Great Hanshin Earthquake.

    Fires rage after the Great Hanshin Earthquake.

  • An expressway lies collapsed after the Great Hanshin Earthquake.

    An expressway lies collapsed after the Great Hanshin Earthquake.

  • The Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant stands crippled after the March 2011 disaster.

    The Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant stands crippled after the March 2011 disaster.

  • Prime Minister Shinzo Abe speaks in the Diet.

    Prime Minister Shinzo Abe speaks in the Diet.