When Tokyo last hosted the Olympics, in 1964, the unveiling of a bullet train capable of the improbable speed of 210km/h heralded the dawn of a hi-tech era in Japan.

Within a decade and a half, innovations such as Sony's videocassette recorder, Toshiba's flash memory and Space Invaders, the arcade shoot-em-up that revolutionised the gaming industry, made Japan synonymous with global technological superiority, and the talk was of it overtaking the US as the world's biggest economy...

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