In This Review

3.11: Disaster and Change in Japan
3.11: Disaster and Change in Japan
By Richard J. Samuels
Cornell University Press, 2013, 296 pp.

The triple disaster of the earthquake, tsunami, and Fukushima nuclear plant breakdown that struck Japan on March 11, 2011, renewed debates about three issues that Samuels has followed for a long time: the role of the country’s Self-Defense Forces, the country’s reliance on nuclear energy, and the distribution of political power between national and local authorities. The crisis response of the Self-Defense Forces (and the U.S. military, which assisted them) earned high marks from the public but generated no shift toward a more muscular security posture and no breakthroughs on the issue of how or whether Japan should continue to host U.S. forces. Nuclear power lost support and regulations were tightened, but any phase-out was postponed indefinitely. Local governments gained prestige and learned some new ways of cooperating but did not get increased formal powers. If the Japanese people showed resilience in the face of catastrophe, so did their political system, flaws and all.