How Japan Will Benefit from the March 11 Earthquake and Tsunami

It has now been a year since the Great Tohoku Earthquake and Tsunami struck Japan. Japan has come a long way since the beginning of the crisis, but let’s face it – there’s still much work to be done.

However, this article isn’t about their struggle. It’s not even about their problems that they are facing. I’ve seen enough of those articles that list the challenges and woes of the Japanese.

While those are very important to stay up-to-date on, I find that there remains room on the crowded Internet for at least one more positive article about how the March 11 events are affecting Japan.

Bringing Japanese together

A strong sense of community has always been engrained in the minds of Japanese, but perhaps growing Western influences, large populations, and technology has weakened the sense of community.

From the very start of the disaster, many Japanese, in communities large in small, had to work together.

From helping the person next to them escape tsunami waters, sharing blankets, clothing and food, Japanese teamed up and gained a renewed sense of community and responsibility for the sake of others.

Even as trains in Tokyo and many other cities around Japan ground to a halt for safety reasons, citizens were forced to slow down and consider their fellow Japanese, and how they must be mindful of others.

Economic Benefits

Let’s face it, the Japanese economy has been facing economic challenges since the bubble burst in the late 80s, but the Japanese economy suffered a blow following the Tohoku earthquake.

Car manufactuers and farmers make up much of the economy in the hard hit region, which slowed exports and temporarily created a food shortage.

Regardless, the Japanese economy has shown a bit of a surprising rebound (overall) since March 11th. GDP grew  in the third quarter of last year for the first time since March 11.

There’s also a thought that there are often small economic booms following disasters as the government injects money to rebuild. While this can never make up for the lives lost and damaged, it does give the chance to for displaced citizens to get back to work, which buys time for them to find a new job or switch careers if need be.

Rethink, Relocate, Rebuild

Tohoku, for many years, has been a a huge source of food, and even manufacturing. Due to low elevation, unique geography, and inadequete seawalls, this region was hit hard by the tsunami.

The truth is, Tohoku will likely remain an important region of Japan for many years. Since the distaster, local governments have a chance to rethink their location, and rebuild in a much safer and smarter way that’s also more economically efficient.

The government can also step in to help the process with money, good planning, and diversification.

As Japan economically redefnes itself amidst strong comepetition from rapidly developing neighboring countries, the Tohoku region may just be the perfect place for the next wave of quality manufacturing and development.

Global Japan

Following the quake in Japan, the world was blown away by Japan’s stoicism, and stopped to learn, listen, encourage, pray, and lend a helping hand to Japan.

This has cause Japan to move closer to the internation community and become more familiar with the rest of the world. Beacause of this, more people than ever know about Japan’s history, culture, people, and pop culture.

The more you learn about Japan, the more you want to travel there. In the long run, this will help Japan’s tourism, and help grow international friendships.

Government Transparency

Under former Prime Minister Naoto Kan, response to the disaster was lacking, and the Japanese people demanded more information. The poor response and silence following the start of troubles at the Fukushima Daichi and Daini power plants resulted in overwhelming pressure from citizens and UN members alike to put everyone in the information loop.

Eventually the information started flowing out, and daily press conferences has been a step in the right direction on the way to transparency.

Growing Interest in Politics

Many Japanese were frustrated by government response from the very beginning of the quake crisis. Since the start, the government has not performed perfectly.

I believe this is where the Japanese start to take a more active role, as they rebuild, as politics play an important role in any recovery.

From clean up to new planning and economic development, higher voter turnout, increased political activism, and a strong desire to improve the political climate is driving change in Japan.

Japan, a nation unfamiliar to mass demonstrations, has seen numerous anti-nuclear protests since the Fukushima problems started.

Driving innovation

There’s quite a big mess to clean up in the hardest hit region of northern Japan. With a lack of homes, mounds of garbage, and radiation problems remaining long-term, Japanese innovators will be coming up with ground-breaking solutions to these problems.

Japanese minds will no doubt tackle these issues which will help other countries handle future disasters more smartly than ever before. We’ve already seen some pretty cool ideas at TEDx Tokyo 2011.

Quake and Tsunami Preparedness

Before March 11th last year, no one imagined that the sea walls would be overcome and whole towns flooded. Now this possibiltiy has been realized, and the seriousness of preparedness and plaaning have been strongly reiiterated.

As the predicted chances of a large earthquake occuring in Tokyo in the next 4 years is 70%, Tokyo is starting to take this really seriously.

Tokyo sea walls will be upgraded for stronger protection, and what was learned from the Tohoku disaster will be applied to prevent deaths in Tokyo for when the big one strikes.

A New Energy plan

Due to large protests and public outcry, all but one nuclear power plant in Japan have remained shutdown since the big quake.

Even with a challenge of power shortage looming for the coming summer, Japan has a unique opportunity to redevelop its energy plan for the long-term, relying on much safer and cleaner methods of meeting their electricity needs.

Softbank, on of the leading cell phone service providers, partnering with two other major companies, is already backing a plan to build solar plants at more than 10 locations in Japan.

Japan’s road ahead will not be easy by any means, but Japan has a very impressive history of overcoming and adapting to challenge after challenge. I remain very positve and optimistic, and know that Japan will triumph in the years to come.