Saturday, March 12, 2011
I do not know very much about Japan. I was there for a couple of weeks as a student more than 25 years ago, and have returned a couple of times on business since, but I do not know very much more than I can read in The Economist about Japanese society and its political culture. That said, it is hard to believe that a disaster of this magnitude will not have massive political consequences. How will the Japanese respond to this? Will the disaster depress the Japanese, who have already been struggling a bit for national purpose -- economic, cultural, and geopolitical -- since the end of, well, the post-war era? Or will it overturn the old order and reinvigorate Japan, making it more forward-looking and assertive?
Release the hounds.
I don't know why this would change their culture any more than the San Francisco Earthquake, or the 1900 hurricane that destroyed Galveston, or the Chicago Fire, etc.
Shit happens, and in Japan, that shit is earthquakes and tsunamis (a Japanese word, I remind you).
TH: "it is hard to believe that a disaster of this magnitude will not have massive political consequences."
That's because you think like an American.
Japan is the country that gave us Kamakaze pilots and ritual suicide by disembowelment.
Roughly 100,000 to 142,000 people died in the 1923 Great Kantō earthquake. The earthquake devasted Tokyo, Yokohama, and other areas. The people quietly rebuilt, just like other Asians did after the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami.
There was an earthquake in James Clavel's novel "Shogun." Read the book again.
The 47 Ronin are gone, and so are the Japanese militarists of World War II. But the Japanese remain a proud, tough people.
I don't see any threat to the Japanese either culturally or psychically. They will do what they did after the Kobe quake: gather the lessons learned and do some things differently going forward. That will likely affect some of the systems they depend on like their power grid and the design of their nuclear reactor stations. They have been around long enough to know that Nature can strike out of the blue and not a lot can be done about it.
The economic consequences are another matter. It's not just a problem of cleaning up the debris, an enormous task in this case. In some areas there is so much devastation that their economic basis has been almost wiped out. It amounts to a take down of a complex system, an ecosystem of sorts. Rebuilding that will take years and cost a great amount.
The Japanese will be proud of the way their buildings stood up, pissed off about their nuclear shutdown, and thoughtful about the tsunami.
They'll continue to lead with the first, fix the second and build major causeways in the path of future tsnamis.
As the others have said, they'll buckle down, bury the dead, and recover quickly. They are a country of diligent, principled, hard-working people. I have no idea what regulatory backlash will occur from the nuclear accident, but it will probably include even more engineering.
I gained a great deal of respect for the Nipponese far-sightedness during multiple WestPac flying tours.
Politically speaking, it depends on how the government response is seen. After the Kobe earthquake there was a huge amount of criticism for the excruciatingly slow government response. After that, laws were changed to speed up reactions to disasters like this, and I think the quick deployment of the SDF this time is a direct result of lessons learned in Kobe.
Recently there has been a sea change in Japanese politics with the Democratic Party of Japan(DPJ) coming to power after basically 60 years of being in opposition. If the government response is not seen as sufficient, it may wreck the image of the Democratic Party and throw power back to the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP).
On the other hand, the LDP was in power during the Kobe earthquake and so they won't be able to capitalize on this by talking about how their response to the Kobe quake was better than the DP's response to this disaster.
On the other hand, my area is Japanese history, not politics, so take all this with a few grains of salt.