That was the term hanging in the air when we were talking to a Japanese manager in his plush office 60 floors up, overlooking the future site of Summer Olympics 2020. Already a bridge spanning the Tokyo Bay was in place, providing access to new sports stadiums and supporting infrastructure on Ariake, Odaiba and the surrounding artificial islands. The Tokyo metropolitan government set aside 400 billion yen to cover the cost of hosting the Games.
Depending on who you talk to, Japan has had one or two lost decades of economic growth. Yoshinoya, operator of the 115-year-old beef bowl chain, raised the price of its regular-size "gyuudon" dish by 27 percent to 380 yen (US$3) on 17 December 2014, the first pure price hike for the dish since March 1990. A favourite of Japan's penny pinching corporate employees, it is an informal measure of consumer prices equivalent to the Big Mac Index. Elsewhere, train fares, like the prices of the canned beverages in the ubiquitous vending machines, appear to be frozen in a time warp.
On the streets, everyone was stylishly dressed, accessorised with the latest iPhone model. From the young to the silvered haired generation, an overnight stay at an onsen, which can cost anything from $100 to $500 per head, was an affordable weekend getaway. If stagflation crimped their style, it was not obvious.
Perhaps the Japanese had long attained the Swiss standard of living, something Goh Chok Tong promised, but failed to deliver to the masses. It must be nice to be able to cruise at such a high altitude of living.