- NBR - The National Bureau of Asian Research

Three Years after the Triple Disaster: Perspectives on Japan's Future

On March 11, 2011, Japan was struck by a triple disaster—a 9.0-magnitude earthquake, devastating tsunami, and a resulting nuclear crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant—that transformed and continues to shape the country’s welfare system, economic outlook, and overall domestic policy. In total, nearly 16,000 individuals died as a result of these tragic events, and the cost of response and recovery operations related to the Fukushima plant alone is currently estimated at upwards of $250 billion.

At the three-year mark, rebuilding in Japan continues. The string of disasters placed immediate stress on Japan’s already-strained health and welfare system as affected citizens flocked to treatment centers and hospitals. It has also presented longer-term challenges such as addressing the more than 100,000 displaced citizens who have been left with concerns about housing, safe water, and the road ahead. Responding to these challenges has been an incredible undertaking—one that has highlighted the skill and role of Japanese civil society, NGOs, and the U.S.-Japan alliance in humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HADR) efforts.

Japan has also seen a dramatic shift in in its energy policy, with significant implications for the country’s economic outlook. In 2011, nuclear energy supplied 25% of the country’s power for electricity generation, and Japan was the world’s third-largest producer of nuclear power. Today, Japan’s energy picture looks quite different. Following the Fukushima Daiichi disaster, the Japanese government authorized taking all of the country’s nuclear reactors offline. This resulted in the eventual shutdown of all 50 reactors and greater reliance on coal and more costly imported LNG. As the country observes the third anniversary of the triple disaster, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has publicly vowed to restart Japan’s nuclear industry and decrease reliance on fossil fuels.

NBR's research and initiatives on Japan provide useful context to understand the impact of these issues on Japanese policymaking; the opportunities for improving cooperation on regional security, economic issues, and HADR; and the implications for the U.S.-Japan alliance.

Published One Year after 3.11

Japan’s Energy Security: Outlook and Implications
Roundtable Report (January 2012)

Policy Change in a Post-Crisis Japan
Interview with Richard J. Samuels (March 2012)

Post–March 11: Japan’s Political and Economic Landscape Now and Ahead
Interview with Mike Green (March 2012)

Asia’s Post-Fukushima Market for Liquefied Natural Gas: A Special Focus on Japan
(in the 2012 Energy Security Report)

Related NBR Research

Book Review Roundtable

Richard J. Samuels’s 3.11: Disaster and Change in Japan
Alexis Dudden, Michio Muramatsu, Suzanne Basalla, Andrew DeWit, Nobuo Fukuda, Sheila A. Smith, and Richard J. Samuels (January 2014)


Reforming Japan's Electricity Sector: Abe's Push for Deregulation
An Interview with Koichiro Ito (October 2013)

Japan's Energy Supply Mix and the Economic Impact
Interview with Risaburo Nezu (January 2013)


New Dynamics in U.S. Global Trade Strategy? A Reinvigorated Japan and the Trans-Pacific Partnership
Roundtable Report (July 2013)

Japan's Entry into the Trans-Pacific Partnership
Commentary by Aurelia George Mulgan (July 2013)

The U.S.-Japan Alliance and Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR)

The U.S.-Japan Alliance in the 21st Century
Video and Transcript of presentation by Kenneth B. Pyle (November 2012)

The Case for Establishing a Civil-Military Disaster-Relief Hub in Northeast Asia
Deogsang Ahn, John Bradford, James Newberry and Harold Wescott (July 2012)

Related NBR Initiatives

Adapting to a New Energy Era: A New Strategy for U.S., Japanese, and Asian Energy Security

Strategic Assistance: Disaster Relief and Asia-Pacific Stability

From March 11 through April 8, 2011, the combined U.S.-Japan military relief effort Operation Tomodachi was chronicled on the NBR website. See the archived timeline of daily updates: Chronology of Operation Tomodachi.

Published in the Immediate Aftermath

The Military Foundations of U.S. Disaster Assistance in Japan
An Interview with Admiral Thomas Fargo, USN, ret. (April 2011)

Another Tsunami Warning: Caring for Japan’s Elderly"
Commentary by Michael Birt (May 2011)

Moving Forward: Relief Efforts, Health System Reforms, and Japan’s Role in Global Aid>
An Interview with Dr. Kiyoshi Kurokawa (June 2011)

Japan’s Evolving Role in Global Health
Commentary by Rayden Llano and Kenji Shibuya (June 2011)

Japan’s Debt Challenge
An Interview with William W. Grimes (October 2011)