One day in the early summer of 2007, I received an email out of the blue from an erudite Japanese central banker called Hiroshi Nakaso. “I am somewhat concerned,” he began in typically understated manner, before warning that a financial crisis was about to explode because of problems in the American mortgage and credit market.
I was astonished. That was not because I disagreed with Nakaso’s analysis: by June 2007, I had been writing about the credit sector for a couple of years as the FT’s capital markets editor in London, and was uneasy.
But I was surprised that it was Nakaso raising the alarm.
So why was Nakaso pessimistic? “Déjà vu”, he replied.
A decade earlier, back in 1997, Nakaso had been working at the Japanese Central Bank when Tokyo plunged into its terrible banking crisis, sparked by $1tn of bad loans left by Japan’s 1980s real estate baburu keiki, or bubble.