Japan’s valiant fight to ward off a triple disaster
Posted on March 31st, 2011

By Philip Fernando, former Deputy Editor Sunday Observer, Seri Lanka

 As the sea violently ripped away, Japan was amidst a tragedy of unfathomable proportions. Its extraordinary toll-from -earthquake, tsunami and nuclear hazards brought immediate response worldwide. The Japanese people are heroically shrugging off the bad omens and see their nation in a more positive light””‚desperation has given way to hope and exuberance. They are beginning to believe in revival.

 As bodies were washing ashore along the coastline, the capacity of local officials was tested to the limit, Japanese did not panic. The toll seemed to rise to over 20,000 lost or missing.

 The country’s unprecedented nuclear disaster and the nation’s stock market plunge had become what Prime Minister Naoto Kan described as Japan’s worst crisis since World War II. Yet they stood solidly strong.

 String of calamities

 The situation in Japan had been dour, particularly so in the last 20 years, during the prolonged recession after the economic bubble burst. Prime ministers fell continuously, policies stalled; and political cynicism grew.

 In fact, after the Kobe earthquake in 1995, the government response was so incompetent that it received strong criticism from the people. This time, the situation is different: the voices of support began to come amidst adversity.

 Yukio Edano, the chief cabinet secretary and the spokesman for the rescue efforts, had become an Internet hero, and rescue efforts by the Self-Defense Forces received praised. Buoyancy began to trickle in.

 What had been a harangue of doomsday predictions, incompetence-indecisive and selfish actions, muddled with complaints and bickering turned into more positive appreciation of government effort.

 The Japanese are boldly trying to defend the nation together, as if they are an inspired people. Analysts have stated that the Japanese people seemed to have completely transformed their kyara (character).

 Transformation was amazing

 Prior to the quake, Japan was a little timid worrying about its eventual decline. People expected very little from the nation, and the mutual help across generations and the trust in local communities were crumbling.

 The catastrophe spurred them on; the experience helped them plant to rebuild a society bound together with a renewed trust. While many may still harbour doubt and become their indecisive selves, the experience of discovering the inner strength and patriotic selves would not go away for most Japanese.

 The foreign media in particular caught calmness and moral behavior of the Japanese faced with the disaster””‚something even the Japanese could not believe. Many are feeling a little bit embarrassed that they had for a moment felt downbeat.

 Immensity of the disaster

 To put things into proper perspective the immensity of the fight back 350,000 people have reportedly been left homeless and are staying in shelters, awaiting news of friends and relatives. The U.S. Geological Survey revised to a magnitude of 9.0, from 8.9″”‚one of the severest in recent memory.

 The disruptions to Japan’s $5 trillion economy, the third-largest in the world, and collective nervousness over the incapacitated reactors brought a steep fall in the Japanese stock market that reverberated across the region on””‚it lost 13 percent in one particular day. The Bank of Japan had to inject a record $183.8 billion into the economy to maintain liquidity.

 TV images of around marooned boats and liquefied houses, floating toys, bedding, tangled fishing nets, pieces of cars, toilets or pottery, and all the residuary remnants of daily life shocked everyone.

 Japan can ride this out and extend the country’s resolve. It would be a great recovery to come out of the current calamity, but also from the stagnation and despair of the last two decades. They are up to it. Sri Lankans wish them well.

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