The economic miracle in Japan is over.
The nineties were dubbed 'the lost decade' and the country is in a period of traumatic transition.
Newspapers now report stories of suicide, homelessness and alienated youth.
In 2005 the nation faces the memory of several haunting anniversaries - sixty years since the atom bombs and the beginning of the American occupation, ten years since the Tokyo gas attacks and the Kobe earthquake, and fifteen years of economic downturn.
In this series of letters from Japan, six leading writers reflect on these painful anniversaries, and consider what role they play in the Japanese mindset of today.The first of three programmes reflects on the contemporary importance of the moment when the old world ended - the day the atom bomb fell on Hiroshima and the legacy of the American occupation that followed.
The second programme reflects on the sense of vulnerability felt in 1995, as the people woke up not just to the realities of economic failure, but to the seismic shock of both the Kobe earthquake and the Tokyo subway gas attacks.
This programme reflects on life after the bubble, and the new sense of social malaise, as felt by the nation's youth - a Japan newly beset by alienation, depression, crime, truancy, and internet suicide pacts.
We also find a Japan looking to become more entrepreneurial, to consider welcoming immigration, and to finally find a role in world affairs once more.