Junji Tsuda, chairman and president of Yaskawa, says that he will raise basic pay. "Given that it's part of a broad national plan to restore inflation, I think we should respond."
As a minister in a conservative, business-friendly government, Mr Nishimura is uncomfortable about getting involved in wage negotiations, but thinks the prize of ending deflation makes it worthwhile. "I think this is quite an exceptional thing. Properly, it should be decided between laborand management," he says. "We have no intention of continuing it forever."
The economic impact of this year's settlement will depend greatly on the form of pay rises, and how far they spread. Only 18 per cent of Japan's workforce is unionized — about 10 million people — and for the army of contract and part-time workers, parallel talks on the minimum wage, due to conclude in July, will make more of a difference.
The effects of the shunto can leak into the broader economy, however, because suppliers at big industrial groups take a lead from their customers. Despite its reputation for brutal cost-cutting, Toyota is dropping demands for lower prices from its mammoth empire of component suppliers. Analysts say the goal is to let wage increases trickle down to the sector as a whole.
Read MoreJapan data shows Abenomics still struggling
Not all companies are in the same position. "Large manufacturers have had the greatest profit growth but that is where labor conditions are not that tight," says Mr Shiraishi. "There is a mismatch between ability to pay and need to pay."
A senior executive at one of Japan's largest industrial groups says his company is focused on cash generation, and while it might raise bonuses, there is no chance of hikes in basic pay. Meanwhile the troubled electronics company Sharp, has agreed a wage freeze this year as it tries to restructure its core business.
Then there are domestic companies that, like their workers, have felt little direct benefit from Abenomics. "Japanese exporters are already feeling the benefits but for those in other sectors, they need to start believing that they will lose out unless they jump on to the same ship and raise wages," says Takeshi Niinami, president of Suntory Holdings, the Japanese owner of US spirits maker Beam.
Upping the base
One of the biggest decisions is whether to raise basic pay or just lift bonuses and allowances. The Rengo union association is calling for a 2 per cent rise in base pay, as well as increases for seniority. The choice will shape the economic impact of the shunto. Mitsumaru Kumagai, chief economist at the Daiwa Institute of Research, says that basic wage rises have a large multiplier effect on consumption, whereas bonuses tend to be saved.
Last year's shunto produced pay rises of 2.2 per cent, the highest in 13 years, but a chunk of that is just seniority increases. What matters for consumption is an increase in the overall wage bill. The rise in basic pay last year was about 0.4 per cent — far below what is needed to drive consumption on pace with a 2 per cent inflation target.
This year, economists are looking for a little more. Mr Kumagai forecasts a headline increase of 2.5 per cent, implying a base pay rise of about 0.7 per cent; Mr Shiraishi is going for a 0.8 per cent increase in base pay. That would be enough for Mr Abe to argue that his stimulus is still on course — but not enough to hit Mr Kuroda's 2 per cent inflation target.