In a rather overstated headline, the Daily Mail (UK) features an article on the messy, long-lasting needs and problems with the recovery process in Japan. This is hardly a surprise, given the extent of the impacts of their tri-part disaster just a few months ago. The article does bring home the known essential characteristics for recovery planning: recovery needs to be efficient, effective and equitable.
It is an inimitable picture of Japanese order and contentment. Passengers throng Sendai Airport. In the fields and market gardens close by, farmers are tending their crops. In the city, the bullet trains are spitting out businessmen. It is almost impossible to imagine the colossal earthquake that unleashed first a tsunami and then a nuclear nightmare just 100 days ago.
The north-eastern seaboard was devastated. Some 28,000 people are dead or missing. Sixteen towns, 95,000 buildings and 23 railway stations have been destroyed. The town of Minamisanriku has simply vanished. No change: The wrecked port of Onagawa looks as bad today as it did in the days after the tsunami and earthquake
No change: The wrecked port of Onagawa looks as bad today as it did in the days after the tsunami and earthquake
No wonder the recovery, so meticulously documented in the media, has been described as a modern miracle. Today, the ships that balanced on tower blocks have gone. The debris has vanished from whole villages and towns.
It is further proof, we are reminded, that Japan is a society of immeasurable strength. And for this it can thank ‘wa’, or harmony. This is a collective feeling close to a sense of perfection. It ensures everyone knows their place and acts accordingly. Or so the Japanese like to tell themselves – and the outside world.
Yet post-tsunami Japan is far from harmonious. The bullet trains may be running, but in the fishing villages and tiny ports that litter the jagged coastline north of Sendai, thousands are surviving on aid handouts. The emergency cash promised by the government is yet to arrive.