Two years after the pacific coast of Japan was rocked by a massive earthquake and tsunami, many people are still struggling to recover.
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.
Wow! Stop complaining? I did not see it coming. I am on their side (those in Rikuzentakata). What the people in that town are facing and fighting against deserve to be heard. Japan's paralysis is truly heart breaking.
After the Xenia, Ohio tornado, you could still see damage scars twenty-five years later. I have been to Sendai, Japan before the tsunami. It will be many years before they can even restore the basic services, so I suspect they will be rebuilding for many years to come.
These things take time. There are no immediate miricles for planning a new environment and getting everything cleaned up and rebuilt. Patience please.
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.
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.
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.
When I go to a conference and see bobble-headed enthusiasts wearing some kind of virtual reality goggles, spinning around in chairs, craning their necks to see some distant corner of a virtual world – I’m both completely disinterested and oddly intrigued.