Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Japan will rebuild itself

I originally wrote this article for my client based in Kyoto, Japan. However, I take the opportunity to reproduce this article by making few tweaks as a way of paying my tribute to a country that I love and have strong connections with.
Like everyone else, I was horrified and shocked to see the large-scale devastation and human cost caused by the earthquake and the tsunami. The massive waves that ripped through the coastal areas of north east Japan is the largest peace time disaster in living memory. The aftermath of the earthquake and the tsunami has been life-changing, leaving the entire nation in a state of shock as the news of deaths and destruction continue to unfold on television. However, despite being in a state of loss, the Japanese were quick to show how resilient they can be and strikingly, in Tokyo, life was approaching normal just 24 hours after the quake.

Almost a week after the terrible disaster, there are now fears of radiation leaks at a power generation plant affected by the quake – an additional challenge that could not have come at a worse time. As the only nation on earth to be hit by atomic bombs over 60 years ago, Japanese society still grapples with the suffering and horrors of nuclear radiation. As rescue and search operations continue at the quake and tsunami affected areas, the government has stepped up efforts to cool over-heating fuel at the Fukushima plant. Helicopters have been dumping tonnes of sea water to try to prevent a meltdown of fuel rods, and there are media reports that water cannons have now joined in the operation on the ground. The hardest thing about writing this piece is the fact that the news is changing so swiftly the first few paragraphs will be wrong by the time I reach the conclusion.

Though Kyoto remains physically unaffected by the disaster – with events even taking place here this week – the scale of the tragedy is so incomprehensible that it is having a knock-on emotional effect all over Japan. People are concerned about the radiation risks as far away as Tokyo, and many families have already started moving to areas of the country considered safer zones. This has become a twofold crisis in terms of evacuation and displacement as pressure increases on fuel, food and medicine supplies. To cap it all, the latest figure by the police say that 5,400 people are confirmed dead and about 9,500 more are still missing.

There have been some disturbing stories emerging from the immediate vicinity of the  and the disaster zone. While people have been asked to stay indoors, many are making their own decisions on where they and their families should be at this time. Hotels in Kyoto and surrounding region are filling up fast with people moving their meetings from Tokyo because they do not want to impose extra demand on the restricted power supply and other after affects of the earthquake. In Kyoto as with other parts of the country hotels are keeping their prices low to help out, demonstrating the country’s willingness to work together and create a successful solution.

Amid all the gloom and the horror that has hit this proud and beautiful country, there have been stories of hope, miracle and extreme courage. In Sendai, a woman has been collecting names of survivors and trying to cross them off the missing lists and make contact with their families. In Kyoto, the famous annual Highashimya Hanataouro illumination event has been renamed – a direct translations would be A flicker of hope for Tohoku.  There are also prayers for the aftermath of the earthquake and thousands of people have come to write their prayers and make financial donations. Literally, tens of thousands of dollars are being collected every night.
In particular people's perceptions of the size of Japan and the impact of the quake need to be managed as we move forward. There is no denying the fact that the country faces tough times ahead, the clear up will be lengthy, and  the economy will take a battering but above all else the human cost is likely to be overwhelming.  However, as a nation  Japan is  incredibly well prepared for natural disasters and the relief effort began almost instantaneously.

 In the face of this extreme adversity, the Japanese people are showing extreme courage to withstand the situation and are determined to rebuild the country. Japan has been historically a country of hard working and proud people. The country splendidly emerged from the devastation of the Second World War to become a dominant economy of the world. I am sure that history will repeat itself in the land of the rising sun.