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Take Opportunity To Build Better Society

Author: Sheila A. Smith, Senior Fellow for Japan Studies
June 20, 2011


The earthquake and tsunami that struck March 11 brought great challenges to the Japanese people, especially those in the Tohoku region who lost so much. The twin salvos destroyed global supply chains and shook the foundations of one of the world's strongest economies.

The ensuing disaster still unfolding at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant has also shocked the world. Meltdowns in three of six reactors, as well as damage to stored fuel rods in a fourth reactor, have now been confirmed. Radiation has damaged surrounding regions, including key agriculture and livestock bases, and contaminated water has ruined the rich ocean fisheries along Japan's coastline.

Japan's reconstruction will be costly. With so many displaced people in Tohoku, the immediate demands on the Japanese state is to find housing, employment and stable healthcare. Efforts to design a broad recovery plan are engaging government, business and nongovernmental experts. For the people of Tohoku, the priority is on restoring their world -- including the agricultural and fisheries industries deeply embedded in the region's social fabric. For many in Tokyo, the priority is building a "model" for Japan's future that captures the imagination.

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