On the one hand, a 15.2% annualized drop is…staggering. Mind-blowing. Mind-numbing. On the other hand, the article makes a good point in that everyone expected a huge hit since the country has responded to expected decline in exports very aggressively. They have closed plants, not just decreased production.
Also, the current account, which is roughly defined as exports-imports, has dramatically shifted for Japan. Before, they were likely running a CA surplus, since so many of their products are exported to the US, China, etc. But suddenly those exports have dropped and while they still might be in surplus (I don’t know, to be honest) they might also be in a slight deficit now. When a country is trying to balance its internal monetary and fiscal controls and its desired level of the current account (which of course impacts the internal economy, since a CA surplus means higher production and employment, etc), changes in the CA can be really devastating to a country that has relied upon a surplus for so long.
Still, 15.2% is crazy.