Mr. Kato led a government advisory committee that concluded that the economy, which was then finally starting to rebound from the collapse of its 1980s land and stock bubbles, was healthy enough to raise the national consumption tax to 5 percent from 3 percent.

Aimed at reducing deficits, the tax increase instead quickly snuffed out the fragile recovery, pushing Japan to the brink of a financial meltdown and thrusting the nation deeper into the economic morass from which it has yet to emerge even today.