For evidence that Japan's economy could avoid a steep decline after a sales tax increase takes effect on Tuesday, consider diaper sales.
Retailers across Japan have reported shortages of Kao Corp's 'Merries' brand diapers in recent months, with many stores sold out even after imposing rations.
At midnight, Japan's sales tax rose to 8 percent from 5 percent. A crush of demand ahead of the first sales tax hike in 17 years has been credited with lifting sales of everything from condominiums to luxury cars -- and raised fears of a sharp downturn in spending over coming months.
That was certainly the experience of 1997, when the sales tax rose to 5 percent from 3 percent -- and spending promptly fell off a cliff.
Economists trying to assess the payback have focused on soft goods -- items such as cigarettes, office supplies and diapers -- where sales surged in the final weeks of March. Sales of consumables account for about a quarter of private consumption.