Despite the devastation caused by the magnitude 9.0 earthquake and 60-foot tsunami that struck Japan in 2011, some 96% of those living and working in the most disaster-stricken region of Tōhoku made it through. Smaller earthquakes and tsunamis have killed far more people in nearby China and India. What accounts for the exceptionally high survival rate? And why is it that some towns and cities in the Tōhoku region have built back more quickly than others?
Black Wave illuminates two critical factors that had a direct influence on why survival rates varied so much across the Tōhoku region following the 3/11 disasters and why the rebuilding process has also not moved in lockstep across the region. Individuals and communities with stronger networks and better governance, Daniel P. Aldrich shows, had higher survival rates and accelerated recoveries. Less-connected communities with fewer such ties faced harder recovery processes and lower survival rates. Beyond the individual and neighborhood levels of survival and recovery, the rebuilding process has varied greatly, as some towns and cities have sought to work independently on rebuilding plans, ignoring recommendations from the national government and moving quickly to institute their own visions, while others have followed the guidelines offered by Tokyo-based bureaucrats for economic development and rebuilding.
This paper examines how the concentration of special interest groups affects the placement and success of controversial facilities. It argues that authorities site public bads–nuclear power plants, dams, and airports–in locations where, especially in the long term, there are fewer pressure groups who oppose such facilities and more who support them. The presence of powerful politicians and worsening first sector employment increase the likelihood that a public bad will be placed in a locality. The placement of an initial public bad in an area overcomes an opposition threshold and makes additional sitings far easier than 'greenfields' siting attempts. Using a new dataset on Japan involving approximately 500 observations of villages and towns over the post war period, this paper reveals that special interest groups become more involved in facilities associated with higher levels of risk and that non–political factors, such as higher population density and smaller town size, only occasionally demonstrate exclusionary effects.