The country is in crisis.
Following the Great Tohoku Earthquake on March 11, it has been in a downward spiral involving aftershocks, tsunamis, radiation leakages, shortages, and other ill effects from the disaster.
Even more disturbing, the lackluster leadership by both the government and private sector firms involved have made a bad situation far worse, and fueled the fire of panic to a higher level that it would have been otherwise.
No doubt about it, the country is in crisis.
The last time Japan faced a crisis like this it was not a natural disaster. It was a political one.
The country had lost a war and suffered devastation from bombings, starvation, misery, and hopelessness not unlike what people are feeling right now. What happened next?
I am sure there were many people willing to write the country off and call it finished.
The old Japan and old ways that had led it to militarism and nationalism had been proven wrong, and the Japanese people suffered greatly for it. Following that, through force of will, the Post-war generation did what Japanese people do best - GANBARU - and transformed the shattered country into an economic powerhouse. It is time to do it again.
Just like in the post-war period, it is obvious the old ways will not work anymore.
A new order needs to emerge if Japan is to ever recover and survive. The problems of the past 20 years need to be laid to rest decisively.
Government and the HR Factor
In the post-war period, working for the government in service to the country was considered a noble thing to do. Many of the best and brightest went to work in the ministries and did a fantastic job of developing the export economy that drove Japan to greatness through the 1980s.
Now the government is a mockery, reduced to indecisive dead fish who could not survive in the private sector, or wealthy children with nothing to offer but their own inflated sense of entitlement.
For the country to endure, new leadership is needed. Government needs to be seen as a worthwhile place for bright young graduates. If Naoto Kan is the best we can do, sadly we are doomed.
The Trust Factor
Trust in government and business has been eroded even further than before by this crisis. The lies, doublespeak, and obfuscation of ministry officials and TEPCO management has put a great many people at risk who did not need to be - and a gomen nasai press conference will not absolve this recklessness. They would be wise to remember that this is a country of strong will, and that in addition to GANBARU, this is a country that can GAMAN - a country that has, and can, endure even the unendurable for the sake of its own survival.
This country can and must handle the truth of what has happened in Fukushima if it is to overcome and persevere. We need the advice of other countries, but our own leadership, to overcome this crisis.
Why I am Hopeful for Japan's Future
Now is not the time for the Japanese salaryman - those days are over.
Now is the time for women and children.
Women are often called the untapped resource of Japan.
Many are highly educated, highly motivated, and even more increasingly looking for challenging careers like their male peers have done. They are the heart and soul of Japan and it is time to let them take an even greater role in rebuilding the country. Continuing to exclude women from authority will destroy any real chance for Japan to revitalize itself.
Children are also better educated than ever before. They are increasingly exposed to the outside world at younger ages, and more and more of them live overseas and become fluent in English.
This is vital in order to reconnect Japan with the rest of the world and to bring back the kinds of important ideas that will help change the country for the better. Japan will not survive in isolation. The current generation lack effective role models, but this will also change.
Asia - China and Japan
One of the most important steps in the rebuilding of Europe was the single currency Euro.
I do not suggest that a single currency is politically viable in Asia yet, but Europe experienced post-war success and growth through inter-connected trade. ASEAN is still a long way off, and diplomatic relationships, especially between Japan and China, must reach a new level of harmony for Japan to become successful again. Whatever happened between Japan and China during the war must be let go, completely let go, for a new relationship to blossom that will benefit both. Recall that only a few years after the war in Europe ended, the SECOND world war, NATO was being formed and prior enemies were involved in positive dialog again.
This needs to happen in Asia once and for all.
Japan always has in it the power to amaze.
If anything positive is to come from this tragedy, it will be a wake-up call for the country.
This crisis will be the catalyst that shocks the Japanese people into making the hard changes that are necessary for the country to survive and ultimately to prosper again - if not for this generation, for the next one.
I love Japan - always have, always will.