While we have been debating who is having an economic recession (the US or Japan), the value of Japan's savings on the world market increased by $6.25 trillion ($25 trillion x 25%), JUST because the value of the yen increased from 147 to 117.6 in only the last two months.
Also, GDP has not declined by any credible source which I have been able to locate:
1994 1995 1996 1997 1998
Europa World Yearbook 1998 483 487 505 n.a. n.a. (GNP trillions yen)
UN Statistical Yearbook 42nd 475 479 505* n.a. n.a. (GDP trillions yen)
Asiaweek 479 505 542 626 (GDP trillions yen)
*The Statistical Yearbook of the United Nations, Forty Second Issue, pg. 167 reports Japan's 1995 GDP to be $5,217 billion. The yen was as high as 80 yen to the dollar in 1995, but to get 505 trillion yen they had to use 96.8 yen to the dollar to estimate Japan's 1995 GDP in dollars.
When Asiaweek estimated GDP per Capita in Japan in March 1998, the value of the yen to the dollar was 147. Thus, their 626 trillion yen was a GDP of only $4.3 trillion. Now that the yen to the dollar is 117.6, this 626 trillion yen is actually $5.3 trillion--one trillion dollars more. If the yen continues on to 80 yen to the dollar before the end of the year, this 626 trillion yen will actually be $7.8 trillion.
This would be a GDP per Capita twice that of the US.
Add to this the fact that our net worth declined by $7.8 trillion at the same time that Japan's increased by $22.4 trillion, and this question must be answered:
"Which economy is the one really in trouble, Japan or USA?"
The US Personal Savings rate has never been stellar. But it is notable that Gross Personal Savings declined from its all-time high in 1970 of 1.44 billion ounces of gold to .89 ounces in 1996. This is a 38.2% decline which occurred at the same time that Japan increased its total Savings (including Postal Savings Accounts) to $25 trillion.
The reason it is so misleading to use dollars to calculate values is exemplified here. It looks like Personal Savings in the US increased from $56.2 billion in 1970 to $271.6 billion in 1996, which would have been 4.8 fold increase, even though the purchasing power of today's Gross Personal Savings is 38.2% less than their purchasing power in 1970.