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As Japan marks the second anniversary of a tsunami and earthquake that devastated the country, the focus is on learning the right lessons from the tragedy, both in Japan and abroad, and on passing those lessons to the next generation. The destruction caused to the Fukushima nuclear power plant had sent shockwaves across the world, and helped mobilise public opinion against the dangers of nuclear plants. Even if countries are using nuclear power, which cannot be dispensed with without huge costs to economies, there is greater awareness about the dangers they cause. Governments have been forced to listen. And some abandoned their plans.
Japanese are known for their resilience, the ability to recoup and carry on with their lives, something which few other communities of the world can take pride in. Many dislocated communities have been grappling with recovery efforts and the uprooted have been deriving strength from government as well as community initiatives.
In a speech at a ceremony held to mark the occasion, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe expressed his resolve to “move forward to create a nation with a high degree of resilience to disasters throughout the country, in keeping with the lessons learned through this disaster.” It’s an important message, one which can prepare a nation for similar disasters in the future. The House of Representatives Speaker Bunmei Ibuki gave the message, and even chided people for forgetting the past. “It is worrisome that people’s recollections of the disaster are fading as seen in the reduced number of volunteers. Taking the lessons learned to heart, we’re obliged to pass them on to the next generation,” he said.
However, not all Japanese are happy with the pace of reconstruction efforts. In a nationwide opinion survey conducted by the Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper, 69 percent of respondents said reconstruction of disaster-hit areas did not make expected progress. Interestingly, the figure was almost unchanged from the 72 percent who responded this way in a survey a year ago. While it was in opposition, the Liberal Democratic Party had harshly criticised the Democratic Party of Japan-led government for its slow and inefficient reconstruction efforts. Now that he is back in power, Prime Minister Abe can focus on efforts to produce tangible results in response to public discontent, which remains strong. The new government has already started plugging the gaps. There were three prefectures which were hardest hit, and the government has for the first time presented a timetable for construction of public housing units for victims. This has been widely welcomed. People affected by the disaster are anxious about their uncertain futures and it is important to launch measures to give them hope•