Today is the 10th anniversary of the Tohoku Triple Disaster: earthquake, tsunami and nuclear meltdown. I wrote about my experiences at the time and you can look back though those posts (start here) if you want to know my thoughts in that moment.
Here are my thoughts in this moment with a decade more experience: governments aren’t to be trusted. From outright lies to poorly planned initiatives to shifting priorities, the Japanese government has not been the trustworthy partner the citizens and residents of Japan need for these last ten years. They promise and fail to deliver. They compromise and fail to deliver. They raise taxes – and never fail to deliver on that. They institute policies that enable them to hide the truth. Then they dissemble and communicate poorly on purpose.
I don’t think much has changed at all in the past decade, unless it has gotten worse.
The triple disaster continues to have daily impact: mourning the thousands swept away in the tsunami; temporary relocations that have become permanent; lingering economic impacts of losing homes and businesses. Many people have rebuilt their lives, but plenty haven’t. And towns in the north still suffer a stigma of being dangerous places, even though they are not. Mental health took a hit all through Japan – the sound of the earthquake warning still puts me into a minor panic.
The pandemic is our current disaster. But Covid-19 response is playing out in a long game with rules that keep changing. The government has been knee-jerk in its reactions closing borders without consideration, slow to initiate a meaningful state of emergency, even slower to implement penalties (it was almost a year before there was any allowance to punishing those that didn’t comply with Covid restrictions), and opaque in its metrics that are decided by “expert panels.”
So I think that a decade on from the Tohoku Triple Disaster, Japan’s government has still not learned how to be honest with us. I hope that this will change, but it will probably not happen until women are recognised and in charge. That’s a topic for another decade; Japan is 151st in equality ranking this year.