Partnership for Recovery and a Stronger Future

Standing with Japan after 3-11

When a magnitude 9.0 earthquake shook the earth beneath the Western Pacific on March 11, 2011, it unleashed a massive nine-meter tsunami toward the coast of the Tohoku region of Japan’s main island of Honshu. The results were devastating: 15, 960 dead and over 4,000 missing; at least $220 billion in destruction of infrastructure and assets; hundreds of thousands of internally displaced persons, with over 50,000 still in temporary housing six months after the disaster; and, of course, the meltdown and radiation leakages from the Fukushima Daiichi reactors. The disaster highlighted and compounded challenges already facing Japan: a rapidly aging society; the fiscal weight of a nearly 200 percent debt-to-GDP ratio; the drive for energy security in a nation lacking natural resources; and declining public confidence in the nation’s political leadership.

Yet the tragedy of March 11 also revealed deep reservoirs of strength in Japan’s economy and national character. The world marveled at the remarkable bonding and perseverance of the citizens of Tohoku. Tens of thousands of citizens from across the country dropped their studies or work and traveled to Tohoku to help with relief efforts, belying the narrative about listless youth or weak civil society in Japan. When the nuclear crisis required conservation, citizens across Japan voluntarily cut their energy consumption by an amazing 25 percent in a nation already known for the highest energy efficiency in the world. The damage to Japanese factories in Tohoku interrupted supply chains across the industrialized world, revealing Japan’s continued dominance of critical technologies. And Japanese industry defied early skepticism about its ability to recover global market share by bringing the majority of the damaged production back on line within a matter of months. The Japan Self-Defense Forces dispatched over 100,000 personnel in highly complex and sometimes dangerous relief operations that demonstrated their competence, bravery, and close ties to the U.S. military. And with the prompt dispatch of rescue teams from 20 countries and relief goods and donations from 92 international organizations and 163 countries, the international community highlighted what opinion polls had shown for years: that Japan is one of the most respected and admired countries in the world.

When the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) initiated the Partnership for Recovery and a Stronger Future in partnership with Keidanren, it was based on the Task Force members’ strong conviction that Japan not only had the wherewithal to recover from 3-11, but also to build the foundation for a stronger future. With that as the overall premise, the Task Force proceeded with four guiding principles:

1. The world needs a dynamic Japan.
2. The Japanese people will choose their path.
3. This is an opportunity to revitalize our partnership.
4. The right strategy can lead not only to recovery, but also to a stronger future.

This is the final report of the CSIS Task Force.

John J. Hamre, Jim McNerney, Hiromasa Yonekura

Kiyoaki Aburaki