Where Mr Shirakawa and Mr Motani most directly see eye to eye is on the need for companies to boost domestic demand by unleashing the latent spending power of the elderly, who sit on the vast majority of Japanese households’ ¥1,500 trillion ($18 trillion) of savings. Mr Shirakawa believes there will be growing demand for health care, nursing, tourism and leisure. He reckons that a 40% rise in the turnover of fitness clubs in Japan in the past decade is due to increasing health consciousness as people live longer. He says deregulation would increase supply in such fields.
Mr Motani takes a more draconian view. He is fed up with the elderly hoarding their money. He says they do this because of a “King Lear” complex: they feel they will be deserted if they give too much away. And he favours tax reform to encourage them to bequeath their money to their grandchildren, rather than their children. One of the flipsides of longevity, he points out, is that the average age of those who inherit is a grand old 67.