The paper surveys the main findings of research about the specificity of the Japanese "régulation" mode and growth pattern, with a special emphasis upon the wage labor nexus, compares the recession which began in 1991 with the previous ones and finally analyses the institutional transformations taking place during the 90's. Even if mass production and consumption do characterize the Japanese economy, the wage labor nexus is built upon an implicit compromise about employment stability, at odds with a typical Fordist one. The contemporary stagnation and uncertainty do not originate from this wage labor nexus being different from the American one, but from the de-synchronization the whole institutional architecture built after WW II and reformed after the first oil shock, under the pressures of a changing international environment and financial liberalization. The Japanese wage labor nexus allows a lot of flexibility and has been adapting all over the 90's and is far from being the weakest institutional form. Clearly, the growth pattern itself is challenged by its very success in catching up and is destabilized by a partial financial liberalization. Until now no alternative domestic led pattern has been found and political leadership and "vision" are severely lacking.