"Central banks have the power to create economic, political and social change. This is how they do it." This passage opens the film, and that is precisely what non-partisan political and socio-economic documentarian group QueuePolitely puts under the microscope in the Princes of the Yen. Based on a book by Professor Richard Werner and directed by Michael Oswald, the film aims to break down and simplify the ways in which central banks influence the world we live in.
The film opens on archival footage from the 1941 Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor, and works to set the stage for what would become an American-led occupation of post-war Japan where Democracy was imposed upon the nation "as if they'd never heard of it." The commercial banking system of the country was logically in shambles, with most of its assets being comprised of war bonds and loans to industries that had been wrecked by the war - rendering it basically bankrupt.
This shortcoming was alleviated by the Japanese central bank swooping in and buying these worthless assets with newly-created reserves. The first two post-war Japanese central bank governors were appointed by the American occupation hierarchy, and numerous other high-ranking government officials that would assume power in the war's aftermath were very much in line with the American agenda.
Through an economic principal called "window guidance," the Bank of Japan, after being awarded complete autonomy with its economic policies, would maintain strict control over who and what commercial banks were allowed to lend money to. As time went on and the Japanese economy continued the grow at unprecedented rates, these controls catered to the trend because it was of course easiest and most ideal to sustain the financial bubble.
By the 1980's, Japanese bankers had become notorious for pushing loans onto high-risk candidates at bargain interest rates, a practice encouraged by management because the banks themselves needed to hit the lending quotas imposed on them by the Bank of Japan. These risky financial decisions eventually led to a monumental economic crash in the early 90's, which is the inevitable outcome of reckless and greedy practices like these.
Directed by: Michael Oswald