Japan's economy is showing signs of shaking off almost two decades of deflation and poor growth. Now it must brace for the first hike in the country's sales tax since 1997.
The consumption tax is set to rise to 8 percent from 5 percent on April 1 and Japan's consumers have been front-loading their spending ahead of the hike.
For instance Japan's domestic sales of new cars, trucks and buses increased 15 percent from a year earlier in February, rising for the sixth consecutive month.
This should provide a short-term boost for Japan, the second biggest economy in Asia after China and the third largest in the world, but economists say the real test will come later this year with the tax hike likely to take a toll on consumer spending.
(Read more: Japan's sales tax: What you need to know)
In short, Japan should avoid a recession but the going could get tough especially if employment growth and wage rises fail to give a significant boost to consumption.
"The rush in demand before the tax hike kicks in appears to be weaker than in 1997, so we are not expecting a recession but consumption will slow down and economic growth will be weaker," said HSBC Japan Economist Izumi Devalier.
"The pace of recovery in household spending will be contingent on wage and employment growth picking up," she added.
(Read more: A good start to the year for Japan's economy)
Izumi expects Japan's economic growth to slow to 1 percent in 2014 from around 1.5 percent last year.