Hideo Sato, 47, and his family escaped to this snowy city 200 km from the radiation emitting Fuksuhima power plant that was struck by a massive earthquake-driven tsunami on Mar. 11
"We were forced to move from our house in Okuma-machi barely eight kilometers from the damaged nuclear plant. We wanted to protect our children from radiation, but now we are at the mercy of the government," he said.
Nine months after the disaster, Sato, a former employee at a car sales company, lives on a 1,500-dollar monthly unemployment dole. His wife is occupied with looking after their three children and cannot take up a job.
Sato’s plight is shared by tens of thousands of people from the tsunami-battered coastline of northeastern Tohoku, that was home to factories producing automobile components and semiconductors for export.
The World Bank estimated the economic cost of Tohoku to be 235 billion dollars, making it the most expensive natural disaster in history.
"The nuclear disaster has added to Japan’s financial woes. The Tohoku disaster, the high Yen, and the global economic crisis spell a bleak forecast for the new year," Kenji Obayashi, an economist at the Asia Pacific research center at Waseda University, told IPS.
Japan, the world’s third largest economy after the United States and China, is now facing difficult economic decisions as the country gropes its way to recovery.
Apart from the crippling natural and nuclear disasters, the Japanese economy is reeling from a Yen that has strengthened almost 30 percent against the dollar, hurting export competitiveness. In turn, this has increased unemployment and depressed domestic demand.
To top it all is the scare of a loss of energy supplies for the resource poor country.
Prof. Tsutomu Toichi, advisor to the Institute of Energy Economics, warns in this month’s ‘Nippon’, a leading news magazine, that the non-operation ...