NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- After two decades of sluggish growth, Japan is poised to rebound as its prime minister works to revitalize the economy through higher government spending and deregulation of business, JPMorgan Chase (JPM) - Get Report CEO Jamie Dimon says.
His takeaway: It may be time to rethink investment possibilities in the world's third-largest economy, which was only recently surpassed by China.
"I am extremely optimistic about the moves being made," Dimon said during a seminar organized by the Japan External Trade Organization, a government-funded group that assists U.S. businesses seeking to enter or expand in the Japanese market. The economic policies of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, referred to as "Abenomics," will help the country begin to expand again, he said.
Viewed as an economic wunderkind for much of the 1980s, Japan's economy stagnated, and in some years shrank, during the 1990s, according to data from the World Bank. In the first decade of the 21st century, growth surpassed 2% only once, bank statistics showed.
But since Abe's election in 2012, some portions of the economy have seen a renaissance. Regenerative medicine, a field that spans from stem-cell research to organ transplants, technology and tourism are all expanding rapidly, Abe said during the seminar.
"Going forward for several years to come, it is expected that the regenerative medicine market will grow by 20% per annum," said Abe, who was re-elected late last year. "Mind you, every year more than 20%."
The strength of Japan's technology industry can be illustrated in part by Apple's (AAPL) - Get Report success in the country. The computer-maker opened its first office in the country in the 1980s and its first retail store there in 2003, said Douglas Beck, the company's vice president for North American and Northeast Asia.
Revenue from the country has grown to about $15 billion today, Beck said. "We continue to bet on Japan, and will be doing so for many years to come," he said.
Much work remains, however. Japan's gross domestic product shrank by 0.1% last year, according to the World Bank, and Abe himself has yet to push growth past 2%. Still, the government points to improvements during his tenure including an average wage increase of 2.2% in the fiscal year through March 31, the highest in 17 years, and a 33% climb in corporate profits.
"Japan has been an enigma to me my whole business career," Dimon noted. When he entered the business world, Japan symbolized a country that had "done everything right." It then experienced two "lost decades," despite housing some of the best companies in the world across a range of industries, he said.
The key to Abe's successes in reversing that is in part an economic plan that mirrors the post-recession stimulus plans of the U.S. and Europe.
"The fact that they are aligning their goals with the goals of the other key central banks in the developed economy is making it a lot more understandable to the international community," said Jim Glassman, an economist with Chase Commercial Bank, a division of JPMorgan Chase.
Abe has also pushed to diversify the workforce, encouraging women to re-enter after starting families. And the country isn't just paying lip service to the effort: Government leaders themselves are setting examples.
Fumiko Hayashi is currently serving as the first female mayor of Yokohoma, a city of 3.7 million just 30 minutes from the capital of Tokyo. Her career is full of many other firsts: She was the first female CEO of Daiei, a large Japanese retailer, and also served as president of BMW Tokyo and Tokyo Nissan Auto Sale.
"As a president of a company, I can only take care of that one company," Hayashi said in an interview. "When Yokohama said, 'Would you like to be a candidate for mayor,'" she was catapulted into a role where "I can now take care of a whole city."
Among the reforms seen in Yokohama is the elimination of preschool waiting lists. Previously, many women in Yokohoma -- and greater Japan -- completely left the workforce after having children. Making preschool accessible was an endeavor critics thought impossible, she noted.
"I've seen a lot of very good women, very high-potential women, quit because they had children," Hayashi said.
Eikei Suzuki, governor of Mie Prefecture, which will host the 2016 G7 economic summit, encountered the flip side of that experience. The second-youngest governor in Japanese history and only the second to take paternity leave, he says his wife, a five-time Olympic medal winner in synchronized swimming, is still more famous than he is.
While his leave wasn't greeted with universal enthusiasm, Sukuki said in an interview that it was the right choice. In Japan, only 3% to 4% of men take paternity leave after childbirth, but in Mei Prefecture, 16% do so, he noted. That's the highest rate in Japan, surpassing Abe's target of 13%.
"I am determined to promote reforms aimed at making Japan the country with the greatest ease of doing business in the world," Abe said. "There is a growth market in Japan."