For a decade, beginning in the early 2000s, Japan Post, an enormous state-owned company with some 400,000 employees and 25,000 branches, embodied the bloat, corruption and complacency that undercut every effort to reform Japan’s economy.

The real stumbling block was the world’s largest savings institution at the core of the mail-delivery system. With trillions of dollars in assets, it was the piggy bank that politicians used to fund pet projects in home districts: dams, white-elephant stadiums, bullet trains to nowhere. Japan Post helped fuel the concrete-economics ethos that led to today’s unsustainable load of public debt.

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