News / Asia

Japan Tsunami Damage Cost Could Top $300 Billion

A stuffed toy is seen amidst rubble at an area hit by earthquake and tsunami in Kesennuma, north Japan, March 17, 2011
A stuffed toy is seen amidst rubble at an area hit by earthquake and tsunami in Kesennuma, north Japan, March 17, 2011


Henry Ridgwell

Japan’s government says the total cost of the damage caused by the tsunami could reach 25 trillion yen – or U.S. $309 billion.

Reconstruction could boost economy

Entire towns were wiped out when the wave hit on March 11.

Farms, factories, roads, railways and electricity lines were destroyed, while almost half a million people have been made homeless. Despite the destruction, many Japanese people hope the reconstruction effort might turn out to help the Japanese economy.

If the government’s estimate proves correct, it would make the earthquake and tsunami that devastated the northeast coast of Japan one of the costliest natural disasters in history.

The predicted cost – up to US $309 billion – includes the destruction to housing, businesses and infrastructure in the seven worst-hit prefectures. But that may only be part of the story.

Tokyo is the beating heart of the world’s third-largest economy. This global financial hub is enduring rolling blackouts because of damage to the Fukushima nuclear power plant. The business costs of the power disruptions are not counted in this estimate.

All facets' of economic life affected

Former Japanese finance minister Makoto Utsumi – now president of the Japan Credit Rating Agency – says the coming months will be tough.

“As far as the short term is concerned, of course we have a serious challenge before us,” Utsumi said. “So probably we would suffer one, two or three quarters of negative growth. But in the long term I believe this will be good for the Japanese economy, through the active reconstruction, the stimulus for the economy, would push up our growth for the coming 3 or 4 years.”

The tsunami's aftermath is affecting every facet of economic life.

Tokyo’s Tsukiji-shijo is one of the largest fish and vegetable markets in the world. Every day tens of thousands of tons of produce from Japan and around the world are traded in these vast warehouses.

The United States and several other countries have banned some Japanese produce imports because of concerns about possible contamination from the nuclear plant.

Stallholders here worry that there could be far wider consequences for their businesses.

“It’s not just Fukushima. Other places like Chiba [next to Tokyo] and other prefectures are affected by the radiation, places where I do business. I’m really worried.”

International companies fleeing Tokyo

On the edge of the market, Hiro Masamoto runs a knife store catering to the fish traders. He is concerned about the future.

“I am worried. I don’t think we’ve seen the full effects yet. If customers stop coming, we’ll be in real trouble.”

Japan’s famous bullet trains are once again running from the capital to the tsunami-hit Tohoku region. Freeways heading north are opening up again to normal traffic.

But many international companies have moved staff out of Tokyo, fearing a potential catastrophe at the Fukushima nuclear plant. Countless seminars, meetings and events have been cancelled. Tourist numbers have plummeted.

Sun will rise again

Growth remains weak – Japan’s economy only recently emerged from recession, in 2009.

But former Japanese Finance Minister Makoto Utsumi insists this sun will rise once more for the Japanese economy.

“For the reconstruction of our economy, not only regional reconstruction but national reconstruction, I think we have money, we have know-how, we have technology, capability, and we have the courage to face these difficulties and finally we will succeed in making the region and the country brilliant again,” Utsumi said.

Like Utsumi, many Japanese are determined that their country can repeat the economic miracle of the 1980s – this time turning catastrophe into growth.

With an estimated 25,000 people dead or missing, the human cost of the disaster is tragically clear.

It will be many months, if not years before the full extent of the damage to Japan’s economy is known.

You May Like

Germany Celebrates 25 Years of Unity

October 3 is a public holiday, marking the day in 1990 when East Germany and West Germany reunited More

Analysts: Russia's Syria Strikes Shake Regional Powers

If Moscow bolsters Assad, Saudi Arabia, other Gulf countries may feel obliged to step in More

Video Innovative Nano-Tech Water Filter Prevents Disease

It can absorb contaminants like copper, bacteria, viruses and pesticides, says Askwar Hilonga, who has been successfully trying out his product in Arusha More

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europei
Luis Ramirez
October 02, 2015 4:45 PM
European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europe

European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video First Self-Driving Truck Debuts on European Highways

The first automated semi-trailer truck started its maiden voyage Friday, Oct. 2, on a European highway. The Daimler truck called 'Actros' is the first potentially mass-produced truck whose driver will be required only to monitor the situation, similar to the role of an airline captain while the plane is in autopilot mode. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video Nano-tech Filter Cleans Dirty Water

Access to clean water is a problem for hundreds of millions of people around the world. Now, a scientist and chemical engineer in Tanzania (in East Africa) is working to change that by creating an innovative water filter that makes dirty water safe. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.

Video Demand Rising for Organic Produce in Cambodia

In Cambodia, where rice has long been the main cash crop, farmers are being encouraged to turn to vegetables to satisfy the growing demand for locally produced organic farm products. Daniel de Carteret has more from Phnom Penh.

Video Migrant Influx Costs Europe, But Economy Could Benefit

The influx of hundreds of thousands of refugees and migrants is testing Europe’s ability to respond – especially in the poorer Balkan states. But some analysts argue that Europe will benefit by welcoming the huge numbers of young people – many of them well educated and willing to work. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

Video Botanists Grow Furniture, with Pruning Shears

For something a bit out of the ordinary to furnish your home, why not consider wooden chairs, crafted by nature, with a little help from some British botanists with an eye for design. VOA’s Jessica Berman reports.

Video New Fabric Helps Fight Dust-Related Allergies

Many people around the world suffer from dust-related allergies, caused mainly by tiny mites that live in bed linen. Polish scientists report they have successfully tested a fabric that is impenetrable to the microscopic creatures. VOA’s George Putic has more.

Video Burkina Faso's Economy Deeply Affected by Political Turmoil

Political turmoil in Burkina Faso over the past year has taken a toll on the economy. The transitional government is reporting nearly $70 million in losses in the ten days that followed a short-lived coup by members of the presidential guard earlier this month. The crisis shut businesses and workers went on strike. With elections on the horizon, Emilie Iob reports on what a return to political stability can do for the country's economic recovery.

Video Fleeing Violence, Some Syrians Find Refuge in Irbil

As Syrians continue to flee their country’s unrest to seek new lives in safer places, VOA Persian Service reporter Shepol Abbassi visited Irbil, where a number Syrians have taken refuge. During the religious holidy of Eid al-Adha, the city largely shut down, as temperatures soared. Amy Katz narrates his report.

Video Nigeria’s Wecyclers Work for Reusable Future in Lagos

The streets and lagoons of Africa's largest city - Lagos, Nigeria - are often clogged with trash, almost none of which gets recycled. One company is trying to change that. Chris Stein reports for VOA from Lagos.

Video Sketch Artist Helps Catch Criminals, Gives a Face to Deceased

Police often face the problem of trying to find a crime suspect based on general descriptions that could fit hundreds of people in the vicinity of the crime. In these cases, an artist can use information from witnesses to sketch a likeness that police can show the public via newspapers and television. But, as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, such sketches can also help bring back faces of the dead.

Video Thailand Set to Build China-like Internet Firewall

Thai authorities are planning to tighten control over the Internet, creating a single international access point so they can better monitor content. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Bangkok on what is being called Thailand’s own "Great Firewall."

Video Croatian Town’s War History Evokes Empathy for Migrants

As thousands of Afghanistan, Iraqi and Syrian migrants pass through Croatia, locals are reminded of their own experiences with war and refugees in the 1990s. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from the town of Vukovar, where wartime scars still are visible today.

Video Long Drought Affecting California’s Sequoias

California is suffering under a historic four-year drought and scientists say even the state's famed sequoia trees are feeling the pain. The National Park Service has started detailed research to see how it can help the oldest living things on earth survive. VOA’s George Putic reports.

VOA Blogs