In the early 1980s, the world was Japan's oyster. They were super rich and rolling in money from unreal inflated property prices. In early 1980s, the world wanted to buy Japanese TVs, cars, electrical appliances. Their products were in great demand. Remember Nikon FM2 in 1982?
Now the world has changed. South Korea, Taiwan and China give great competition in manufacturing.
Samsung Smart TVs, LG fridges, Hyundai cars, Apple iPhones made by Foxconn in PRC, computers and motherboards by Taiwan's Asus.
But in 2012 Japan is still streets ahead in technology relative to these 3 countries. China still got decades of catching up to do.
Made in Japan currently still means something.
Give you an idea of a company's hubris when they were still doing well. See this. Customer's pleas to ask Sony to make something, so that they can buy it from Sony. The Petition to Sony Requesting that NetMD Provide Audio Uploading to PC
Uploading audio files to and from the PC was the killer application.
They could have sewn up the world market for personal music device long before the iPod. Handed it to Apple on a silver platter.