The economy of Japan

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When we search the World Nuclear Association website archives, we can find a historical account of the disaster that states, "The Great East Japan Earthquake of magnitude 9.0 at 2.46 PM on Friday, March 11, 2011 (sic) did considerable damage in the region, and the large tsunami it created caused much more."

As one of the deadliest disasters in recorded history, the earthquake, tsunami, and subsequent meltdown at the Fukushima nuclear facility undoubtedly had an impact on every part of Japanese society. The impact of the accident on Japan's economic situation will be the main topic of this analytical research paper. The main topic of this analytical research paper will be the impact of the accident on Japan's economic situation.

What is Japan’s economic standing five years after these series of calamities? That is the question that I want to analyze in writing this research study. I consulted related literature from books, peer-reviewed writings, and news articles. To organize my data, I grouped them into three categories. First is the catastrophe. Second is the renewal, and third, the recovery, which are all pointing to the economic effects of the disaster to Japan. My objective is to analyze the available literature about the events and the consequences it brought to Japan’s economy. In doing this research, I have to make my thesis statement so that I may be able to focus on arriving at a logical answer, whether my statement is correct or null, this paper will serve its purpose. After five years of experiencing such nightmare, I can say that Japan and its people are still in the recovery period and that they need more time to fully conquer the aftereffects of the disaster.

The Catastrophe

News from all over had dominated the media on 11 March 2011. Japan, known as a country that sits on the ‘Pacific Belt of Fire’ had a great earthquake, followed by an enormous tsunami, and then series of accidents.

Sample, and Branigan, writers of The Guardian published:

Japan is battling to stave off a nuclear disaster after an explosion at a northeastern nuclear plant in the wake of the enormous earthquake and tsunami.

Authorities are evacuating tens of thousands of residents living within a 12-mile (20km) radius of the Fukushima Daiichi plant and those within 6 miles of a second installation in Futuba, 150 miles north of Tokyo.

CNN reported that the “combined total of confirmed deaths and missing” is more than twenty-two thousand people. “About an hour after the quake, waves up to 30 feet high hit the Japanese coast, sweeping away vehicles, causing buildings to collapse and severing roads and highways”.

Then the World Health Organization reported:

An explosion occurred at Unit 1 at the Fukushima Daichi nuclear facility, but the Japanese authorities reported that the incident did not involve the reactor core and containment around the radioactive core remained intact. The authorities said the cooling system at Unit 3 in the Fukushima Daichi complex was also not fully functioning.

BBC News online published on 11 March 2011:

The quake was the fifth-largest in the world since 1900 and nearly 8,000 times stronger than the one which devastated Christchurch, New Zealand, last month, said scientists… train services were suspended, stranding millions of commuters in the Japanese capital. About four million homes in and around Tokyo suffered power cuts.

I remember watching the news, and feeling so sad with what was happening. The natural disaster was so huge, one event, after another, and then came an accident with the nuclear power reactors. It was like the trembling earth, the surging ocean, and the radiation-filled air had come together to declare the inhabitants as their adversary. It was one event in one’s lifetime that cannot be forgotten, and if someone had a choice, he or she would not be at that place that time.

The Renewal

A vast amount of literature will describe that horrific day when Japan was stricken with such a catastrophe and I chose not to describe too much and concentrate my work with the renewal plans and the recovery period.

“In Onagawa, the first meeting of the redevelopment committee was held on May 1, 2011…and the recovery and redevelopment plan was finally published in July” (Karan and Suganuma 128).

Steve Lohr of the online New York Times reported:

The damage of the earthquake has been geographically widespread, and  thus, for the time being, production is  likely to decline and there is also concern that the sentiment of firms and  households might deteriorate,’’ the central bank said in a statement. To try to stabilize the markets and prop up the economy, the central bank earlier Monday poured money into the financial system.

Nanto, Cooper, and Donnelly, editors of the book Japan’s 2011 Earthquake and Tsunami, published that the “value of the yen and interest rates also are being affected”. It stated that the Group of Seven Industrial Nations agreed to “cooperate as appropriate” in order to stabilize Japan’s currency and prevent its value from decreasing continuously (7). Despite of this initiative, Japan’s economy “shrank at annual rate of 3.7 percent in the first quarter of 2011” (Karan and Suganuma 29).

In an article written by Mimura et al., they made several timely recommendations in the recovery and reconstruction of the damages caused by the three events and addressed the problem in “disaster wreckage”. They said, “disaster management plans focused on the refugees, etc.” (814-815).

“By 2012, several towns and cities had formulated ‘basic recovery plans’ listing major reconstruction projects… and relocation of people to higher grounds” (Karan and Suganuma 16). “In October 2013 a mission visited (Fukushima) at government request and reported on remediation and decontamination in particular. Its preliminary report said that decontamination efforts were commendable but driven by unrealistic targets (World Nuclear Association).

The Recovery

A catastrophe like the 2011 earthquake-tsunami-nuclear blast in Japan is a very huge challenge to face. The following paragraphs will tackle Japan’s road to recovery until year 2016.

The Reconstruction Agency (RA) of Japan gave an update in their website in October, 2016 regarding the recovery plans. According to them, after the calamity, the Japanese government promptly “formulated budgets, modified laws and orders”. A reconstruction time frame of ten years has been set, where an allocation of an approximately $250 billion was reserved for the first five years, and another $65 billion for the next five years.

Karan and Suganuma said, “Japan is still wrestling with the disruption and dislocation unleashed that day (32). Furthermore, they concluded that it would take decades to clean up the nuclear mess, and Japan’s taxpayers would have to shoulder this responsibility (227). One of the recovery plans included Tokyo’s pledge to fund “26.3 trillion yen over five years” for reconstruction (Euro News).

A recent print from Global Investment & Business Center (GIBC) gives details concerning the current economic standing of Japan in the global context. According to them, the disaster “disrupted manufacturing” and large economic recovery happened in two years, since the event (15). In addition to this, Japan has a “huge government debt, which is exceeding 230% of gross domestic product” (16).

Editors Fandiño, Kontar, and Kaneda published in their monograph:

Some community members who took part in collective relocation program are ready to build their new homes …the Japan Reconstruction Agency also reported that 68% of the total planned levee reconstruction managed by the prefectural government had begun construction by March 2014 (37).

Kirk Spitzer of The USA Today reported in 2016 that “about 53 million tons of debris was hauled off…yet, in many respects, the recovery is just beginning”. According to RA, around 60 thousand people still live in temporary shelters.

GIBC further described Japan’s economic recovery in one of their publications: Japan has largely recovered from the economic shocks caused by the March 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami and GDP has returned to its pre-quake levels. Japan continues to grow challenges of low growth, deflation, and an aging population and shrinking workforce.

Found in RA’s website is an excerpt of Tsuyoshi Takagi’s speech to uplift the moral of the Japanese people. The Minister for Reconstruction mentioned in his speech in February 2016:

Japan is now entering a period of “reconstruction and revitalization.” In 2020, Japan will host the 2020 Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games. Let’s call this event “Olympic Games for Recovery” and show the world that the affected areas have recovered from the disaster with the mobilization of all available resources throughout Japan.   With the opportunity of the five-year anniversary of the earthquake, I would like you to look back our experiences over these past five years and the state of reconstruction in the disaster-affected areas, and ask for continued warm support from the people of Japan as well as around the world in order to achieve the earliest possible recovery of the disaster-affected areas.


From the information cited in this paper, I conclude that Japan’s economic reconstruction will take more years. Although facts and figures try to prove that Japan is in its road to recovery, the nuclear issue will hinder their objectives in doing so. Five years have passed, the nightmare will be remembered in a long time, and its effect to Japan’s economy will take longer time to heal.

Japan may be taking all necessary actions and measures to speed up recovery, and do business as usual, but it does not need an expert or a scientist to conclude that more time is essentially needed for full recovery and for convincing the world that the nuclear risk has been already eliminated. Reconstruction and rehabilitation efforts will continue for sure, even to the extent of building for preventive purposes, but as of now, the end of the line is not yet in sight.

The Economic, moral, health, environmental, and psychological impacts of the triple disaster will still be around for the coming years but knowing that Japan’s strength lies in its people, and since the government has allocated plans and funds for the next five years, there’s a chance that recovery will be faster and better than what it should have been.

Works Cited

“2011 Japan Earthquake – Tsunami Fast Facts.” CNN Library, 22 Nov. 2016, Accessed 5 Feb. 2017.

“Before and After: The Scars of Japan’s Tsunami Five Years On. Euro News, 09 Mar. 2016, Accessed 5 Feb. 2017.

“Efforts for Reconstruction of Tohoku, Japan Reconstruction Agency.” October 2016, Accessed 3 Feb. 2017.

Fandiño, Vicente-Santiago, Yevgeniy Kontar, and Yoshiyuki Kaneda. Post-Tsunami Hazard: Reconstruction and Restoration. Springer, 2015.

“Five Years Since March 11, 2011.” Japan Reconstruction Agency, February 2016, Accessed 3 Feb. 2017.

“Fukushima Accident.” World Nuclear Association, Jan. 2017, Accessed 4 Feb. 2017.

Global Investment & Business Center. Japan: Doing Business and Investing in Japan Guide, vol. 1. International Business Publication, 2017.

Global Investment & Business Center. Japan Special Economic Zones Handbook – Strategic Information and Regulations. International Business Publication, 2016.

“Japan Earthquake: Tsunami Hits North-East.” BBC News, 11 Mar. 2011, Accessed 2 Feb. 2017.

Karan, Prandyumna, & Unryu Suganuma, (Eds.). Japan After 3/11: Global Perspectives on the Earthquake, Tsunami, and Fukushima Meltdown. University Press of Kentucky, 2016.

Lohr, Steve. “Disruptions of Power and Water Threaten Japan’s Economy. The New York Times, 13 Mar. 2011,

Nanto, Dick, William H. Cooper, & J. Michael Donnelly, (Eds.). Japan’s 2011 Earthquake and Tsunami: Economic Effects and Implications for the United States. Congressional Research Service, 2011.

Sample, Ian, & Tania Branigan. “Fukushima nuclear plant blast puts Japan on high alert”. The Guardian, 12 Mar. 2011, Accessed 5 Feb. 2017.

Spitzer, Kirk. “5 Years Later, Japan Still Struggles to Recover from Tsunami Disaster”. USA Today, 08 Mar. 2016, Accessed 5 Feb. 2017.

“WHO Puts Global Radiation Experts on Standby.” World Health Organization, 13 Mar. 2011, Accessed 4 Feb. 2017.

February 14, 2023

Economy Entrepreneurship

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