I saw on online discussion board that asked ex-pats living in Japan whether life there has changed for the better since they arrived, and my answer is a resounding yes. The current age of smartphones and the Internet aside, there have been many serious improvements for gaijin living in Japan since I arrived back in 1991, from the ability to travel around Tokyo without being exposed to endless cigarette smoke to the general flow of useful innovations from the outside world that have improved the lives of people in various ways. Japan has a normal capitalist economy in which companies compete to bring the best products to market, but many industries from books to music CDs had special rules allowing manufacturers to set prices artificially, resulting in higher profits in the short term but companies that were slow to change when the Internet came knocking a few years later. One area that has improved a lot has been banking: back in the day ATMs used to close at 7 pm Monday through Saturday and were closed all day Sunday…and all holidays, meaning if you forget to get cash out before Golden Week you had to starve. Attitudes inside Japan have improved, too: twenty years ago, it would have been highly irregular for company with a female president and an American vice president to exist, but nowadays it’s not surprising at all.
Japan has changed much in 20 years.