The Liberal Democrats acted as the conduit, rewarding the construction sector and other bastions of support with massive pork-barrel spending.
Spending on public works might work in the short run, but given Japan’s shrinking workforce and soaring social welfare and health costs, it is unsustainable in the long term, said Masahiro Matsumura, a professor at St. Andrews University in Osaka.
‘‘We cannot afford to spend everywhere, so the government has to decide on a more effective approach,’’ Matsumura said. ‘‘Investments that don’t lead to improved efficiency will be wasted.’’
Reflecting such concerns, a $10.7 billion stimulus package announced late last month targeted spending on key sectors of the economy such as renewable energy and small and medium-sized companies.
Many economists argue the only thing Japan can afford less than higher debt is austerity. But while its bond market remains a ‘‘safe haven’’ for global investors and it is not facing the sort of repayment crisis that is plaguing Greece and other European economies, there are limits, said Rea.
‘‘It is crucial that they put the economy on a more sustainable path,’’ Rea said. ‘‘They are hugely indebted and paying more and more on refinancing a debt that will continue to go up.’’
Ikeda, whose son is working with him in his barber shop, is more concerned for his two children than for himself.
‘‘My son isn’t married. Salaries are low, so it’s hard for him to get married or have a family or buy a home,’’ he said.
‘‘I wish he could just have a normal job and life, nothing fancy. But it’s gotten difficult for that to happen in modern Japanese society.’’
Associated Press writer Malcolm Foster contributed to this report.