The nation of a thousand clocks

Some see in JapanÆs big bank mergers an intricately designed plan to create a handful of world-beating financial powerhouses. DonÆt start sweating yet.

A few years ago, wrote Taichi Sakaiya, a career bureaucrat, novelist, and lately the Japanese cabinet minister responsible for economic planning, a French journalist asked me if Japanese have some kind of national goal that motivates them to sacrifice their living standards for economic and corporate growth. I responded to his question with a metaphor.

A jet has a lot of different parts, like wings, a cockpit, a fuselage. These components all look different, they use different materials and...

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