NEW YORK, April 4, 2011 - Over the past three weeks, Japan has been dealing with a triple calamity, the "gravest crisis to hit the country since WWII," and "the world's worst crisis since Chernobyl."
However bleak things seem, a town hall-style meeting here at the Asia Society was about looking forward to recovery, not dwelling on the events of the past.
Fred Katayama, the award-winning news anchor for Reuters Television, moderated a panel discussion among Columbia University professors Gerald Curtis and Carol Gluck and President of the Japanese American Association of New York, Gary Moriwaki.
They were joined by telecast with four experts in Japan: Mitsuru Claire Chino, corporate counsel of Itochu Corporation; Toyoo Gyohten, President of the Institute for International Monetary Affairs Japan; James Kondo, Visiting Professor at Hitotsubashi University; and Yukio Satoh, Vice Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Japan Institute of International Affairs.
The nuclear issue was the first topic of discussion. "The big problem with this crisis is nearly 30,000 people having died; areas being devastated; the need for major reconstruction. That has to be addressed. You have to hope that they can get this nuclear issue stabilized, so they can turn their attention to this unbelievable human tragedy," stated Curtis.
The panelists went on to talk about economic recovery. "I don't see it reflecting on the Japan-brand at all. My guess is that a lot of non-nuclear recovery, the supply-chain recovery, are going to go rapidly enough, so that it's going to reflect well on the Japan-brand," Gluck said.
Gluck went on to remind listeners of just what an uncertain future Japan still faces. "I think it's important for us to understand that no one really knows what's going to happen. So the government is in a tough place because you have to reassured, you don't want to make the fears worse. But if you keep reassuring and then it doesn't come true, you lose your credibility."
However uncertain conditions remain, though, the sentiment among all the panelists was that Japan has the resilience to overcome this disaster.
"We've seen from previous catastrophes that the Japanese have an ability to recover very quickly," said Curtis. "A lot of Japanese, in the public sector and the private sector, are thinking very innovatively about to turn this awful crisis into opportunity in Japan."
Reported by Rachel Rosado