Japan's economy has been and remains successful. So is Germany's. They have reached an economic steady state in which they don't need roaring growth rates to provide for their people.
This is, perhaps, the most dense quote that Corrections has yet reiterated. Not only is it not true, but it throws to the wind the most important idea that economics has to teach us in the macroeconomic realm: only growth matters. Indeed, as Robert Lucas put it well:
Is there some action a government of India could take that would lead the Indian economy to grow like Indonesia’s or Egypt’s? If so, what, exactly? If not, what is it about the “nature of India” that makes it so? The consequences for human welfare involved in questions like these are simply staggering: Once one starts to think about them, it is hard to think about anything else.
Why is economic growth so important? Yearly GDP growth rates seem to range, generally speaking, between 2% and 6%. Is there any real significance between one and the other? The answer is best introduced with a bar graph of compounded (not simple average, but compound-average) growth rates from a few selected countries from 1988-2008 (click to enlarge):
To understand why these differences are large, take Afghanistan in 1960. It had a GDP/capita that was 4.73% that of the United States's GDP/capita. How many years would it take Afghanistan then to catch up with the United States in 1960 using different growth rates? (To account for population growth, population growth would need to be subtracted from GDP growth, unnecessary to the point here). The number of years required using each country's growth rate is graphed below (click to enlarge).
Similarly, if we wanted to see how many years it would take for Afghanistan in 1960 to catch up to the United States GDP/capita in 2008, we can plot the same graph:
The difference between the author's lauded Japanese growth and a high-growth country like China, Ireland, or South Korea is the difference between Afghanisan transversing from what it was in 1960 to what the United States is today, in a generation, rather than as a long-term joke. The above figures make it obvious how important economic growth is, due to its exponential nature.
As an aside, the notion of Germany and Japan being at a "steady states" is simply first-tier ignorance, an article more worthy of Pravda in the 1960's than the Los Angeles Times today.