The relationship between work and leisure in Japan has changed drastically during the past 15 years. One of the biggest factors contributing to the change was the so-called "bubble economy" which began to expand in the latter half of the 1980s. It produced the growing misconception that consumption was a virtue, and fuelled the sharp growth that the leisure industry enjoyed. In an attempt to thwart criticism from overseas that the Japanese were overworked "economic animals", the government placed the task of shortening annual working hours near the top of the political agenda. As a result, working hours were greatly shortened and the gradual descent to a standard 1800 hour target had begun. Although a rise has occurred since the "bubble" burst because of the ensuing economic collapse and recession, the value system governing work and leisure has changed a lot. The traditional feeling of guilt that the Japanese have harboured about taking time off is now buried in the past. The trend is particularly strong in the younger generation. As Japan makes the change from a society that placed economic growth at its core to a mature society that pursues a better quality of life, finding a creative balance between work and leisure will become an important issue.
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