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For businesses from banks to high-end stereo makers, the expected mass retirement of the baby boomer generation beginning next year represents the birth of a huge consumer base with relatively deep pockets and a lot of free time.

Born in the immediate aftermath of World War II and generally perceived to be more curious and entertainment-minded than their predecessors, they symbolize both the good and bad days of postwar Japan — from miraculous growth to the hangover following the burst of the bubble economy.

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