Now though, as Japan stages a remarkable recovery, the mood is palpably more upbeat. Japan's economy grew faster than any of its G7 rivals in the fourth quarter of 2005, with GDP up 4 per cent year on year, and as a result, consumer spending shot up by 3 per cent over the same quarter.
Japanese advertising, too, has a more hopeful feel to it of late. As Lucy Aitken discovers (page 33), the feelgood factor - driven by healthier marketing budgets - is prompting advertisers to try new things. The 15-second bursts of celebrity-based fantasy that have come to symbolise Japan's decade-long recession are slowly giving way to advertising with a more human touch.
Change is afoot on the media side, too. The legacy of the internet maverick Takafumi Horie, who staged a David and Goliath-style takeover of Japan's largest TV broadcaster last year, continues to shake up the sector - even though Horie now resides in a Tokyo jail cell (page 37).
Meanwhile, Japan's once highly secretive domestic agencies, moved by a market that is close to saturation, continue to open up and tackle the cultural and linguistic obstacles necessary to thrive on the global stage.
Dentsu, which commands nearly one-third of Japan's ad market, agreed to open its doors and give us a sense of a day in its working life. Mark Tungate (page 38) discovers a 48-storey building with 6,000 staff, high-speed elevators, gobsmacking views of Mount Fuji and state-of-the-art lavatories that Madonna raved about on her last tour of Japan.