Shunto is in full swing. Or so it should be. Or so they say. Shunto is the Japanese word for the annual spring round of wage negotiations conducted between big business and trade unions. This "spring offensive" used to feature large in the annual economic calendar. As the deflationary 1990s and beyond set in, this offensive became an offensive no more. Faced with the prospect of corporate bankruptcies and accompanying job losses, labor unions rapidly lost their teeth.

Gone are the days when the leaders of the large industry-wide unions were referred to as kings and emperors. In such times, a mere prime minister would balk at face-to-face meetings with those elites of the working classes. A head of government could not possibly compete with the clout and influence enjoyed by the captains of the labor movement.

Media reports suggest that shunto is back. Given the pressure that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has brought to bear on both businesses as well as the unions, it is widely held that the unions are in a good position to go for monthly wage increases rather than just one-off bonus payments. At long last the time has come for labor unions to claw back some of the power that they have let slip through their fingers over past years. Yet again, or so they say.