A housing market bubble that defies common sense. Stocks at record highs. A potential war on the Korean peninsula and a US president unwilling to deal with the North's unpredictable leader...

Then a nail-biting election allows a maverick politician to oust the largest party from government and replace it with an untested ragtag coalition of rookies.

Think I'm talking about New Zealand in 2017? Nope. This has all happened before. There was even a Winston Peters prototype in this prequel.

Japan's electoral system produced a coalition government of no less than eight minor parties in 1993. This election turned out to be one of the most historically important votes in post-war Japanese history.


Think nine years is a long time for National to have been in power? The party that garnered the largest number of votes but that was demoted to opposition in 1993 (the Liberal Democratic Party) had been ruling for 38.

Historians consider the 1993 election in Japan to mark the beginning of a chaotic, but very necessary, period of change that ended all too soon.

This eight-way coalition lasted in power just over 10 months, but managed to achieve major electoral reform in that time by introducing a semi-proportional representation system meant to make Japan more democratic.

The aim was to clean up corrupt ties between big business and politicians, and give urban voters more voice, goals that (with the benefit of hindsight) were only partly achieved.

The first days of the new Prime Minister also saw uproar as he naively went off script in his first press conference and admitted that World War II has been a war of aggression by Japan. China and Korea loved him.

In the end, it didn't matter that this new and idealistic leader was from a party that had garnered just 10.1 per cent of the vote.

Except for the nationalists, few questioned his legitimacy as it was clear that what he was doing was good for democracy as well as making Japanese political history.

The US ambassador at the time compared him to John F. Kennedy. To upset convention and snatch victory from the jaws of defeat is a skill that any politician can value (even grudgingly).

The background to this ground-shift in the Japanese political landscape bears some resemblance to New Zealand today. In the 1980s, Japan was the "rock-star" economy of the world.

The Japanese had convinced themselves that the shortage of land in populous centres (or as Aucklanders like to say, a lack of supply) meant that asset price inflation was entirely natural and house prices would continue upward indefinitely.

Everybody who could afford it piled into real estate, including companies, who began to use land price gains to boost the bottom line of their regular businesses.

This situation quickly led to average people being unable to enter the market, leaving companies and professional real estate investors as the only players.

The outrageous wealth this small, privileged group increasingly controlled came to be viewed as a social issue and the Government moved to limit bank lending. Sound familiar?

So far, so good, and regular Japanese felt like they might have a chance at owning a home again. Then, a step too far - the introduction of a new tax at an inopportune time. Land prices dropped, paused, then dived and didn't stop until values in Tokyo were at a quarter of their peak.

The economic and psychological damage remain to this day.

To be sure, New Zealand in 2017 and Japan in the early 1990s are not the same. Japan's asset price bubble had already partly burst by the time the so-called "rainbow coalition" came to power. The Nikkei 225 had already begun its decades-long decline.

Today's three-way coalition in New Zealand has a mutually agreed upon and sensible game plan for achieving its goals, and Winston Peters (believe it or not) is a far more reliable partner than the Japanese politician who played both midwife and wrecking-ball to a number of Japanese governments from 1993 onwards.

The common thing between the two situations is that voters in both countries knew in their gut that something had to give, and a majority elected for change.

Perhaps New Zealanders saw the writing on the wall in the irrational housing market, and the growing gap between top and bottom in a once fairly egalitarian society.

This election showed that the party can't go on forever, and that leaders can't act like it will, coming up with convincing arguments that this time is a "special case" just like the mandarins in the Japanese Ministry of Finance did.

Japan's unwieldy coalition disintegrated due to infighting and a lack of common vision among member parties. National will be looking for ways to repeat history with the so-called "coalition of losers" this time around.

While Jacinda Ardern and her team have a slightly easier job with only three parties to corral, there are sure to be hiccups aplenty and a steep learning curve. Let's hope that New Zealand's coalition lasts longer than 10 months.

• Bennett Richardson is a New Zealand freelance writer based in Tokyo. His writing has appeared in the Wall Street Journal, the Christian Science Monitor and the South China Morning Post.