Japan’s Recovery Six Months after the Earthquake, Tsunami and Nuclear Crisis

from Brookings Institution
Published on 13 Sep 2011 View Original


In the aftermath of the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear crisis that struck northeast Japan on March 11, Japan has faced multiple challenges and crises. As Japan has begun major reconstruction efforts in the affected areas, worked to regain control of damaged nuclear power plants, and carried out large-scale humanitarian relief efforts, the rest of the nation has steadily returned to normal life. Although the effects of the disaster will undoubtedly be felt for some time to come, Japan’s efforts to return to normal mark a major step toward recovery.

On September 9, the Center for Northeast Asian Policy Studies at Brookings hosted Ambassador Ichiro Fujisaki for a keynote address on Japan’s recovery and progress over the six months since the triple disaster, highlighting that Japan is indeed open for business and travel. Ambassador Fujisaki also touched on how the administration of new Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda will approach the multi-faceted challenges of reconstruction.

After the program, Ambassador Fujisaki took audience questions.


AMBASSADOR FUJISAKI: First, impact of the Great East Earthquake and Tsunami. Earthquake. This is the size of the earthquake. We had Virginia-Washington, D.C., earthquake on August 23. That was quite big. Well, I can’t say that, at the time I was in Japan, so -- but I heard from my wife that it was big and I saw it in the newspaper, too. 3/11 – sorry -- 3/11, the magnitude was 9.0. This August 23 was magnitude 5.8 and according to scientists -- I didn’t calculate myself -- energy between this magnitude 5.8 and magnitude 9.0 is 63,000 times different; 9.0 is that large. So you can see how that 3/11 was -- earthquake was big.

Second chart, please.

We had also tsunami. That was quite big. Never heard of in 1,000 years in Japan. It ran up to 40.5 meters, because when tsunami comes, it would come up from sea level to beach and go up the hill, so the highest it has come was 40.5 meters. But tsunami itself was, as we know, its maximum height was 16.7 meters, but that’s four-story building high. Imagine how high that would be, how horrendous that would be, four-story building high.

Now, we’ll go to impact on economy. Damage to buildings and infrastructure. You had Katrina. This was a very big natural disaster. What is recorded by FEMA is infrastructure damage was $5.5 billion. The Japanese Cabinet Office has told us that infrastructure damage of 3/11 is $44 billion, and on top of that there are buildings and equipments and other damages as well. In Japan we have the record that it is recorded as $168 billion. As for Katrina, we don’t have the figure, but I think at least infrastructure-wise, it is eight times.

Now, what that has done to our economy. Before 3/11, our estimate for 2011 GDP growth was 1.6. After 3/11, it is -0.7. Now, 2012, because we are recovering, before 3/11 the estimate was 1.8, but now the estimate is 2.9. So, it shows that we are recovering. Of course, if we didn’t -- it’s not good enough thinking that it has gone down, we have to grow more, but still you can see that it is growing.

How big was this in comparison to Japanese economy, is the next chart. The size of industrial activity output of all Japan is $3,320 billion. Municipalities along the Pacific Ocean coast of Aomori, Iwate, Miyagi, Fukushima, Ibaraki prefectures is 2.5 percent of total Japan. It is big, but still not whole Japan. It’s part of Japan, as you can see.