Japan used to be the second most powerful economy in the world, and often seemed to overshadow America.
However, the island country has slipped to third, behind China, and appears to be quickly slipping further. One of the main reasons for this decline is Japan's no longer growing -- its population is shrinking.
What was once a vital, thriving Japan has been sputtering for years as its people grow older and older.
"Japan has been dying now for the last eight years," said Steve Mosher, president of the Population Research Institute.
"Japan has been filling more coffins than cradles each year," he added.
The country has lost tens of millions of people -- and is shrinking fast.
"There are 1,300 less Japanese today than there were yesterday," said Brian Clowes, director of Human Life International Research. "They're losing 1,300 people a day."
Japan's couples haven't been replacing themselves with enough children for at least three decades.
"Japan is now committed to a kind of slow demographic suicide with the population getting older and decreasing year after year after year," Mosher said.
"You see that over 2,500 schools have now shut down and become nursing homes," Clowes said.
Soon most of Japan's money will be used just to care for the elderly.
"In 1950, Japan had 10 workers supporting every retiree," Clowes said. "Now it's two-and-a-half workers supporting each retiree. In 40 years, it'll be one-to-one, which is an impossible situation."
And deflation has set in -- bringing a trend of falling prices and a weakening economy.
"The market is shrinking for homes," Mosher said. "The market is shrinking for cars and consumer goods, because there are too few young people in the market buying those things."
Huge debt problems will also soon come. Social security and debt servicing will soon take up as much as 70 percent of government spending.
"You have an older and older population which is going to consume more and more resources in pension and health care," Clowes said. "You have fewer and fewer workers generating wealth."
"The Japanese economy is shrinking with the Japanese population," Mosher said.
Japan's debt is nearly twice the size of its economic output, way larger than most of the great powers. Japan is still such a crucial player, its eventual downfall will hurt much of the rest of the world.
"Eventually they will have to default on their debt and their economy will collapse," Clowes said. "And when it comes it will be sudden and it will be catastrophic, not only for Japan but for the whole world economy."
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., revealed what some U.S. senators have learned about world economies.
"We had a presentation this week where some very smart people who have looked at sovereign debt and looked at Greece and have looked at the countries Portugal and Spain. They say Japan has passed the point of no return," Paul said. "That's a prediction. They could be wrong. But they say they have. And they say we're a year or two behind Japan."
It's a lesson for those who think a growing population is a bad thing.
"Every stomach comes into the world with two hands attached. Every mouth comes with a brain," Mosher said. "We're not just consumers. We're producers. And most of us in a free society leave the world a better place than we found it."
"If you don't have children, your nation is going to die," Clowes said.
One economic theory that has been popular for several decades maintains that for a prosperous country to stay prosperous, it needs to control its population -- possibly even shrink it. Japan's proving that theory needs serious re-examination.