Two years after the devastating tsunami and earthquake that killed close to 19,000 people and wiped out many coastal villages on March 11, 2011, too many people are still living in temporary housing, villages closer to Fukushima are still struggling to recover from the radioactive fallout caused by the nuclear crisis, and people in many remote fishing villages who were economically strapped before the tsunami face a future that’s uncertain at best and bleak at worst.
You may call that quintessential Japanese efficiency–or a Pecksniffian obsession with appearances.
Meanwhile, Japan’s recovery is stuck in neutral, afflicted by a failure of flexibility and imagination on the part of government, bureaucracies and the people who have the power to change existing rules and regulations but don’t use it.
Rule-bending, of course, has never been Japan’s forte.
In a press briefing held at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan earlier this year, Futoshi Toba, mayor of Rikuzentakata, Iwate Prefecture, noted, “Honestly speaking, the state of our city is nowhere close to recovery.” Rikuzentakata, hard hit by the tsunami, saw 1,556 people killed, including the mayor’s own wife, with 218 people never found. In summary, 7 percent of its total population disappeared.
Asked about the root cause of the delayed recovery, the mayor cited government red tape, vertically organized government agencies (each working in a silo) and leadership’s inability to act and think outside regulations never formulated to cope with a thousand-year storm.
Futoshi Toba, mayor of Rikuzentakata
After two long years, Mayor Toba said, “We see piles of rubble everywhere, while damaged public facilities remain inactive.” The situation for Rikuzentakata is particularly devastating, because the town itself, located in the middle of nowhere, is built on weak economic and financial foundations, while its small population has many senior citizens.
While there are several reasons for our slow recovery, Toba pinned the main blame on “the way our bureaucracy thinks and acts.”
Toba recalled what happened several months after the earthquake and tsunami hit the town. “We were left with not a single supermarket in town. There were no retail outlets standing where our residents could even buy bottled water, let alone food.” The plan for a much needed supermarket was turned down by regulators, said Toba, on the grounds that the area is zoned for agricultural use. Every day, the town smacks head-first into a Japan too rigid to adapt compassionately to crisis.
I actually look forward to Junko's articles and enjoy her style of reporting. It gives me a valuable insight into the technical supply chain issues that are not reported in the nightly news.
Junko, keep up the good work!
That what I always found in this EE Times site from this author. What she want to seek in this site for Japan. For good or bad for Japan. When she given some article about Japan problem more uneducated opinions or comments is given and not many good suggestion especially from Japan haters. Its not matter if Japan response to it or not. Or it will be better not posting article about Japan at all. This is technology website not problem website. Thanks.
"Japan’s fat, complacent, mostly male bureaucracy."
Why is it when results are not found, people start complaining? And when results are met, they are congratulated.
It's not just this, this author complains about everything Japan: Panasonic, Sharp, Sony were just the recent victims of her global opinions that would be better suited to a local japanese news paper.
I agree with EREBUS, and for Junko I know how you felt to you fellow japanese aspecially in the disaster zone. But to redeveloped a proper infrastructure in the disaster zone take long time and with the scale of disaster because it involve many issue to consider but I can`t accept if Japan Gov can`t ready the basic and important thing. All in all not to expect fast or blink of the eye recovery. Thanks.
It is not an issue about stop complaining.
The issue is about a realistic understanding about the magnitude of the damage they need to undo. Complaining about something not being done instantly creates a needless redirection of resources that in the end takes longer to implement than the initial plan.
Until you have seen a city rebuilt, you have no idea about all of the issues involved.
I wish there was a magic wand or a global undo button, but rebuilding communities takes time.
Don't shoot the messenger just because you disagree with the message.
Just my opinion.
Why is it, every time someone raises an issues that needs some social involvement, some non-participant cries, "Stop complaining"?
Junko, you are doing a wonderful service by reporting on this. Perhaps it will embarrass the people who have been enlisted to resolve this problem enough to entice them to do the jobs they are being paid to do.
Anyone that believes the public should "stop complaining" and put up with whatever injustice is thrown at them is being completely unrealistic.
Nothing happens unless someone complains. Only a Mother Teresa does something completely out of the goodness of her heart. And the world is lacking in Mother Teresa's.
Are you seeing this newborn love among "makers," board vendors, and chip companies? What mystifies me is not so much the love part, but how anyone could eventually mistake this infatuation for good business.