I find that the Japanese, myself included, use the phrase, "Japan is the world's second largest GDP" as some sort of mantra to try to keep Japan relevant in a world that is exceedingly uninterested in Japan. I was talking to Oki Matsumoto, a good friend and the CEO of Monex about this. He told me about a talk he gave at Keio University about the increasing irrelevance of Japan and showed me the following slides which I post with permission.
This first slide is the percentage of the world GDP of various countries in 2004 and projected in 2050. On the far left is the US at 38.3% in 2004 and a diminished but significant 20.3% in 2050. Japan however goes from 15.4% in 2004 to 4% in 2050. Still 2X that of Italy's projection, but not the mammoth we seem to think will will continue to be. The first yellow block is China and the second one is India. Clearly they are the big growth markets according to the predictions.
You may say, well that's 2050. That's a long time from now.
The second image shows Japanese GDP plotted from 1980 to 2006. It shows our once 18% GDP down to a a modest 9.1% in 2006. Furthermore, the text on the right explains that we've gone from the world's highest GDP per capita to the world's 18th.
It's really no wonder we're having a hard time getting attention in Japan. With an aging population and a less-than-competitive economy, there are ways to manage, but you don't get there by denying the facts and continuing to beat you chest IMHO.