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

Syrian Rebels Poised for Anti-Russia Collaboration

Forty-one insurgent groups issue joint statement vowing retaliation for Russian air offensives More

Political Maneuver Revives Export-Import Bank's Chances

Parliamentary tactic gets bill out of committee, but it faces opposition in the Senate More

Beijing Warns US on S. China Sea Patrols

Warning follows news reports Thursday that US military is planning to sail warships close to artificial islands Beijing has been aggressively building 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.
House Republicans in Chaos as Speaker Favorite Withdrawsi
Jim Malone
October 09, 2015 12:32 AM
The Republican widely expected to become the next speaker of the House of Representatives shocked his colleagues Thursday by announcing he was withdrawing his candidacy. The decision by Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy means the race to succeed retiring Speaker John Boehner is now wide open. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Video House Republicans in Chaos as Speaker Favorite Withdraws

The Republican widely expected to become the next speaker of the House of Representatives shocked his colleagues Thursday by announcing he was withdrawing his candidacy. The decision by Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy means the race to succeed retiring Speaker John Boehner is now wide open. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Video German, US Officials Investigate Volkswagen

German officials have taken steps to restore some of the reputation their car industry has lost after a recent Volkswagen diesel emissions scandal. Authorities have searched Volkswagen headquarters and other locations in an effort to identify the culprits in the creation of software that helps cheat on emission tests. Meanwhile, a group of lawmakers in Washington held a hearing to get to the bottom of the cheating strategy that was first discovered in the United States. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Why Are Gun Laws So Hard for Congress to Tackle?

Since taking office, President Barack Obama has spoken out or issued statements about 15 mass shootings. The most recent shooting, in which 10 people were killed at a community college, sparked outrage over the nation's gun laws. But changing those laws isn't as easy as many think. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.

Video Hungary Criticized for Handling of Refugees

Amnesty International has accused Hungary of breaking multiple international and European human rights laws in its handling of the refugee crisis. As Henry Ridgwell reports, thousands of migrants and refugees continue to travel through the Balkans to Hungary every day.

Video Iraqi-Kurdish Teachers Vow to Continue Protest

Sixteen people were injured when police used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse teachers and other public employees who took to the streets in Iraq’s Kurdish north, demanding their salaries from the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG). VOA’s Dilshad Anwar, in Sulaimaniya, caught up with protesting teachers who say they have not been paid for three months. Parke Brewer narrates his report.

Video Syrian Village Community Faces Double Displacement in Lebanon

Driven by war from their village in southwestern Syria, a group of families found shelter in Lebanon, resettling en masse in a half-built university to form one of the biggest settlements of its kind in Lebanon. Three years later, however, they now face being kicked out and dispersed in a country where finding shelter as a refugee can be especially tough. John Owens has more for VOA from the city of Saida, also known as Sidon.

Video Bat Colony: Unusual Tourist Attraction in Texas

The action hero Batman might be everyone’s favorite but real bats hardly get that kind of adoration. Put more than a million of these creatures of the night together and it only evokes images of horror. Sarah Zaman visited the largest urban bat colony in North America to see just how well bat and human get along with each other.

Video Device Shows Promise of Stopping Motion Sickness

It’s a sickening feeling — the dizziness, nausea and vomiting that comes with motion sickness. But a device now being developed could stop motion sickness by suppressing certain signals in the brain. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.

Video Making a Mint

While apples, corn, and cranberries top the list of fall produce in the US, it’s also the time to harvest gum, candy, and toothpaste—or at least the oil that makes them minty fresh. Erika Celeste reports from South Bend, Indiana on the mint harvest.

Video Activists Decry Lagos Slum Demolition

Acting on a court order, authorities in Nigeria demolished a slum last month in the commercial capital, Lagos. But human rights activists say the order was illegal, and the community was razed to make way for a government housing project. Chris Stein has more from Lagos.

Video TPP Agreed, But Faces Stiff Opposition

President Barack Obama promoted the Trans-Pacific Partnership on Tuesday, one day after 12 Pacific Rim nations reached the free trade deal in Atlanta. The controversial pact that would involve about 40 percent of global trade still needs approval by lawmakers in respective countries. Zlatica Hoke reports Obama is facing strong opposition to the deal, including from members of his own party.

Video Ukranian Artist Portrays Putin in an Unusual Way

As Russian President Vladimir Putin was addressing the United Nations in New York last month, he was also being featured in an art exhibition in Washington. It’s not a flattering exhibit. It’s done by a Ukrainian artist in a unique medium. And its creator says it’s not only a work of art - it’s a political statement. VOA’s Tetiana Kharchenko has more.

VOA Blogs