Why Japan Matters
Pictured: a fire after the quake and tsunami in Sendai The effects of the earthquake and tsunami that devastated northeastern Japan has only heaped more misery as the weekend continued. The images seared into our minds are too eerily reminiscent of what occurred in southeast Asia and India in late 2004. What is amazing about the earthquake is how resilient Japan’s architecture proved during the 8.9 earthquake, which was 1000 times stronger than the quake that hit New Zealand a few weeks ago. Nevertheless, the tsunami that followed showed that no amount of preparedness or planning can compensate for a disaster as relentless as what Japan’s people are currently enduring. Had Japan not been more proactive, the death toll would be in the hundreds of thousands, not tens of thousands--hardly comforting for the families who are suffering, but important to remember nonetheless. Now we are inundated with reminders of how precarious our own infrastructure is, while others howl at the evils of nuclear energy. The Cassandra-like prophecies are premature and misplaced: right now the focus should be on assisting Japan, not wringing our hands over what we could do at home in the USA. “I told you so” crooning over nuclear energy is also unnecessary: nuclear energy is expensive and has its risks, but the same folks who denounce nuclear energy have no viable alternative for a nation that generates one-third of its energy from nuclear sources. Japan was one of the greatest miracles of the last millennium. An isolated, backwards country that was forced to open to the world in the late 1860s roared into modernity and shocked the (white) world less than 40 years later with the defeat of Russia in war by 1905. Japan’s race to dominance only continued, stalled only by the misguided strategy behind its decision to bomb Pearl Harbor and eventual defeat in World War II. Japan again rebounded in less than 20 years, and by the 1980s scared the USA with its seemingly endless march towards economic domination. The past 20 years have been rough for Japan, with economic stagnation heightened by a government that moves too slowly and is hampered by weak leadership. The natural disasters are a cruel cap for what has been a difficult two decades, but let us remember what Japan has given the world. Technological innovation, thought leadership in business efficiency, timeless design, stunning architecture, cutting edge art, uproarious fashion, an appreciation of and obsession with other cultures, and humanitarian aid without strings attached are just a few of the legacies Japan and its people have given to the world. Now their people are inspiring us through their resilience during a most traumatic time. It is oddly fitting that two countries that have a tangled history with Japan, Korea and the United States, were amongst the first nations to send disaster relief teams to Sendai and surrounding areas. That is because right now we are all Japanese. Japan deserves our unrelenting support, attention, and assistance. This latest video reminds us why.