Kiyoshi Watanabe bought Japan Airlines Corp. shares last year at about ¥100 and lost more than 90 percent of his investment on speculation the former flag carrier will file for bankruptcy. Yet he supports the government's decision to forgo a bailout.

"With the blood transfusions, JAL would just be surviving as a zombie," said Watanabe, 44, chairman of a nonprofit organization in Tokyo. "This is a good thing. JAL must be rehabilitated."

National pride in JAL, until now protected by what's known as the "rising sun government umbrella," has plunged since the 1970s, when it ranked first five times among companies that college graduates aspired to work for, according to placement company Recruit Co.