“Japan has gone from being the 'exotic' in the 1960s, to a 'threat' in the 1980s, to just being a part of a rich, cosmopolitan human existence,” says Devin Stewart, senior fellow at the Carnegie Council and former director of the Japan Society in New York. “People learn about Japan and its culture nowadays because it is an important part of the world as we know it. It's a place people relate to.”
In 1990, at the height of the asset bubble in Tokyo, "Japan Inc." made 463 acquisitions of foreign firms. This year, the total is set to top 500 for the first time, with a record total spend of more than 7 trillion yen ($83 billion). IT giant Softbank’s $20 billion takeover of Sprint Nextel Corp., announced in October, will be the biggest foreign takeover ever undertaken by a Japanese company.
The acquisitions this time around are spread across a wide range of industries, rather than the trophy buys of prime real estate that unnerved America during the days of Japan’s roaring bubble economy.