Recovery in Japan


Workers Smiling Boss and Emi Satoh

Photos by Rob Schmitz


SSRC-Abe Fellows have been contributing to analysis and coverage of the tragedy in Japan.


Daniel P. Aldrich (2006 Fellow) and Mika Shimizu (2008 Fellow) compare public and private recovery efforts in Japan after the Tohoku disaster:

The response by government agencies and large-scale organizations to the March 11 disaster in the Tohoku region of Japan has been an exercise in ineffectiveness. Institutional ham-handedness continues to prevail. The national Diet remains gridlocked on bills that could benefit victims, while, according to a Japanese newspaper, only 30 percent of the $2.2 billion (169.56 billion yen) donated to the Red Cross has actually made it to potential recipients by mid-July.


Sheila A. Smith (2006 Fellow) examines "Japan's Nuclear Quandary (continued)" for the Council on Foreign Relations blog:

Partisan politics aside, public confidence in industry and government has plummeted. Credibility of data marshaled to date in support of the conclusion that Japan’s reactors are safe has been undermined, and media polls reveal a steady drop in public support for Japan’s existing nuclear energy policy.


Aldrich wrote "The Tohoku Disaster: Crisis 'Windows,' Complexity, and Social Capital" for Items & Issues:

At 2:46 p.m. on March 11, 2011, a magnitude 8.9 earthquake, known as the Higashi Nihon Daishinsai (Eastern Japan Great Earthquake Disaster), struck roughly fifty miles off the coast of Japan’s mainland. While the Tohoku quake itself caused few fatalities, it set off a tsunami measuring up to forty-five-feet high, which not only devastated coastal and inland villages but also swamped the backup systems of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear-reactor complex.


Rob Schmitz (2009 Journalist Fellow) contributed "A long road ahead for Japanese taxi company" to Marketplace:

As we approach Sendai, we listen to the radio. The host reads a list of homeless shelters that still have room. We drive by grocery stores with lines a mile long. Yamano takes us to Smile Smile Taxi's headquarters. There's not much to smile about. Two drivers are missing, and a third of the company's taxis are damaged beyond recognition from the tsunami.


Aldrich wrote "With a Mighty Hand: The Japanese government’s influential and manipulative role in commercial nuclear power" for the New Republic:

It was no twist of fate or invisible market-hand that created 55 nuclear reactors in a seismically active country smaller than the state of California. Japanese bureaucrats and politicians have made it a priority to create an indigenous source of power that provides an alternative to imported oil and coal.


In Michael Wines' New York Times article, "'Too Late' for Some Tsunami Victims to Rebuild in Japan," two Abe Fellows are quoted.


The young people left these rural communities long ago for jobs in Sendai, in Tokyo and in Osaka.  These are declining areas. With an exogenous shock like this, I think it’s possible that a lot of these communities will just fold up and disappear.


John Campbell (1996 Fellow) on whether the government of Japan will rebuild the area affected by the disaster:

We faced exactly the same question after Katrina. There was a big discussion about whether we should rebuild the Ninth Ward, since it was below sea level, and so on. In terms of economic rationality, it didn't make any sense, really. But on the other hand, it's where these people lived, and there were emotional reasons to do it.
These villages may not have the same sentimental attachment. Nonetheless, there's an emotional argument that's going to be made, and I think it will be a potent one.


Paul Blustein (2011 Fellow) wrote "Craving Spinach After Fukushima Nuclear Scare" for Bloomberg:

Almost every Saturday, my family goes to a yaoya, or market that sells produce grown to meet Japanese consumers’ famously picky standards for tastiness, crispness and freshness. As much as we love the quality, we often wince at the prices. So my wife and I are looking forward to the day when we can enjoy a real bargain -- cheap spinach from Fukushima Prefecture.


Robert J. Samuels (1998 Fellow) and Robert Madsen wrote "Japan's Black Swan" for Foreign Policy:

The political, economic, and strategic implications of the continuing disaster are likewise more foreseeable than was the disaster itself.


See also:

We recommend the Japan NGO Earthquake Relief and Recovery Fund for anyone wishing to contribute to relief efforts. Other donation options are listed at the Lede blog/New York Times.

Cover photo by Katrina R. Menchaca.