Japan's economy is huge. If the Japanese banks are hit by bank runs in 1999, this will have worldwide fallout. Japanse housewives may not sit quietly when they see newspaper headlines, "American-Made Computers Have Huge Flaw: Japan's Banks At Risk." At some point, word will get out.
Japan is dependent on the West's mainframe computers. It uses our dating system in its computers, though not in common communications. Word is getting out slowly to businesses.
The Japan Information Service Industry Association has posted an English language report on the Year 2000 Problem in Japan (June, 1997).
First, there is a shortage of computer engineers who can handle the y2k. Only 30% to 40% write in COBOL or PL/1. Not all of them can be spared for a y2k fix.
They cannot safely hire foreigner programmers (India) who do not speak Japanese.
Their systems have 10 million to 100 million lines of code, as ours do.
In a detailed report issued by the same organization, its survey results indicated that over 70% of the private companies have not begun the y2k repair. For government agencies, the figure is 87%.
My conclusion: Japan will not make it. In a world trading system, if any nation as big as Japan goes down, we all go down. Count on it. Prepare for it. Repairs will require several months of testing.