mcfly back to the future
Back To The Future 2
The value of the Japanese dollar is falling again, now that new Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has pledged to reinflate the country by instructing the country's central bank to make asset purchases.

It's now pretty inconceivable that a Japanese company would be able to snap up American corporate assets as investments.

In the eighties, it was a fact of life.

Starting with a relative trickle at the beginning of the decade, Japanese conglomerates went on an epic buying spree in America during the latter half of the decade after both countries agreed to revalue their currencies.

The trend became so widespread that the "corporate Japanese takeover" concept began leaking into American culture.

Via Google News, we now take you on a tour of this singular moment in the life of both countries...

It started out innocently enough — for instance, some Japanese automakers coming over to put American parts in their cars.

Michigan Daily

Meanwhile, American firms like Motorola were still finding Japanese buyers for their products — including beepers.

Toledo Blade/Google News

But the country's influence was starting to be felt — not just in America's cosmopolitan corners, as this article noted, but even in Texas, Arkansas and Mississippi, whose museums now featured Japanese exhibitions.

Durant Daily Democrat/Google News

Then the trend got real, with a conglomerate purchasing a steel company wholly owned by Ford.

Sydney Morning Herald

But we hadn't seen anything yet.


At the time the value of the U.S. dollar had exploded...


...Resulting in a major U.S. trade gap.


So in September 1985, the G-5 countries signed the Plaza Accord. The non-American ones pledged more liberal trade policies to try to close the gap.


It worked — the value of the dollar fell dramatically against the yen.


But it may have worked too well, because Japanese commenced a "buying spree" that would last another the rest of the decade.

Albany Herald/Google News

For the rest of the decade, Japanese conglomerates snapped up any U.S. asset they could get their hands on.

Milwaukee Journal/Google News

Even the most marquee ones.

Eugene Register-Guard/Google News

Old-school columnists like Paul Harvey were outraged and warned of "an economic Pearl Harbor."

Kentucky New Era/Google News

Suddenly, Hollywood started introducing Japanese bosses. Here's a scene from Steven Spielberg's "Back To The Future 2" showing how Japanese companies would dominate.


Much of "Die Hard" starring Bruce Willis took place in a Japanese building in Los Angeles.


Anyone growing up in the '80s will remember the cartoons from Japan...

Youtube Voltron...


...and Thundercats...


...American children got used to seeing Japanese names during the closing credits of their favorite cartoons.


Even the Japanese themselves started getting freaked out about their prosperity. "The amount of money spent for pet food now exceeds the defense budget," wrote Georgie Geyer.

Gettysburg Times

Others were more sanguine. "By American super-power standards, Japan is still a minor-league player," wrote Ben Wattenberg.

Daily News/Google News

But the Japanese purchasing machine couldn't be stopped: hotels..

Eugene Register-Guard

Tire companies...

Reading Eagle/Google News

Movie studios...

The Age/Google News

The climax came in November 1989, when the Mitsubishi company bought Rockefeller Center for $846 million.

The Age/Google News

As Union College economics professor would observe, "Sony chairman Akio Morita might be excused for asking bluntly, 'What was it you said you wanted?"

Schenectady Gazette/Google News

But that was the eighties. If you don't know what happened next, read on...


With all that spending, inflation in Japan exploded.


In December 1989, Yasushi Mieno took over as Bank of Japan president and immediately raised rates.

Bank Of Japan

The market caught a glimpse of itself in the mirror, and screamed.

Eugene Register-Guard/Google News

But Mieno kept raising rates.

The Deseret News/Google News

The decade-long correction had begun...

The Press-Courier/Google News

And Japan began its retreat from the U.S.

Prescott Courier

The bubble had burst.

Eugene Register-Guard

In the long run, we came to welcome Japan as a prosperous trading partner...


...Though we still occasionally break out in hysterics when a rising East Asian power comes knocking.

Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel