2010 was the year in which Japan was overtaken by China as the world's No 2 economy.
Its flagship company, Toyota, recalled more than 10 million vehicles in an embarrassing safety crisis.
Its fourth prime minister resigned in three years, and the government remains unable to jolt an economy entering its third decade of stagnation.
For once-confident Japan, the year that went by may well mark a symbolic milestone in its slide from economic giant to what experts see as its likely destiny: a second-tier power with some standout companies but limited global influence.
Problem is, there's little to look forward to in 2011.
With a rapidly aging population, bulging national debt, political gridlock and a risk-averse culture slow to embrace change, Japan's prospects aren't promising.
And a tense, high-seas spat with China has intensified fears of its neighbour as a military as well as economic threat.
Image: In this Monday, June 7, 2010 picture, an elderly woman walks past electronic stock boards displaying the Nikkei stock average, left, and the foreign exchange quotations of the Japanese yen to the euro and the US dollar at a securities firm in Tokyo.
Text: Malcolm Foster, AP (This article talks about the problems riddling Japan before the quake and the tsunami. We decided to re-run it to give you a perspective of the worries the country was facing when life was more everyday, more routine in the island)