Culture / Economy / International Relations / Travel

The Disaster That Changed Japan

My good friend Jan is currently in Japan on his year abroad. I thought it was the perfect opportunity to get a little insight into post-catastrophe Japan. Here are his thoughts on the matter:

It has been more than 8 months since Japan was hit by the destructive triple disaster: earthquake, tsunami and Fukushima reactor blow. The large scale destruction had not only a huge impact on the affected regions but also on Japan as a whole. Ten thousands of people’s life were destroyed within one day. Some of the villages or cities were completely wiped out. Even after all the survivors were evacuated a new danger was threatening their lives: leaking radioactivity from one of the nuclear reactors. The tourism branch experiences a full blow caused by the fear of contamination. Regional products had to be destroyed, energy in the whole country had to be rationed and the political leadership had to restructure after massive critics about their crisis management.

Not really the best starting point for me to come to Japan! However I arrived more than 2 months ago in Japan and since then I am still alive. I live now in Tokyo, which is quite far away from the disaster site. That is why I am not worried at all about any radiation here. I just recently read a German article that found out that the general radiation levels in Berlin and New York are higher than in Tokyo. Also the energy is nearly completely restored all around the country. I can however still notice that compared to 4 years ago (when I came the first time to Japan) most things like traffic lights, escalators, freezers etc. don’t speak as much to me as they did before. Also my student dorm and my University are still following energy saving programs and I can discover everywhere stickers that are telling me to switch of the light.

I also think that the march disaster is still very present in the minds of Japanese people. Once I started asking some of my friends about nuclear energy and the crisis management, they actually gave me their opinion and sometimes even discussed with each other what is quite atypical for Japanese. I think the general mood is a dissatisfaction with the handling of the situation itself and the political leadership. But I can also see that the opinions about essential topics like ‘the future of Nuclear Energy in Japan’ vary quite a lot. I believe as well that the current crisis in Japan is neither an Economical nor an Environmental one. It is the political leadership that has to develop as quick as possible a full-scale recovery plan. Maybe the latest Prime Minister (he is the 6th PM within 5 years) can come up with a new master plan. He is an alumni from my University (Waseda) at least something that gives me a little bit hope…

You can read more about Jan and his travels here.



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