Reflections on the Japan Crisis

As we continue to watch in sadness as the tragedy in Japan unfolds, I have been struck by how well prepared Japan was in minimizing the immediate human impact of the earthquake and tsunami.  While there has still been devastating tragedy on the local and family level, on a social level, the death toll of 10,000 when compared to the death toll of 250,000 to 300,000 in Haiti is quite remarkable.  It is even more remarkable when one considers that the Haiti earthquake was several hundred times less severe than the Japan earthquake.

This blog post from someone on the ground in Japan celebrates this aspect of the crisis:

“Decades of good engineering, planning, and following the bloody checklist are why this was a serious disaster and not a nation-ending catastrophe like it would have been in many, many other places….”

However, unlike Haiti, Japan is the world’s third largest economy, a nuclear power and has been suffering from a prolonged economic recovery due to structural economic inefficiencies.  Fareed Zakaria reflects on this angle of the crisis:

“The one area where Japan did not adequately prepare itself was economics….”

And finally, beyond Japan’s economy, what does the crisis mean for the rest of the global economy and the capital markets?  Our friends at H.M. Payson cover the topic in their typically brilliant fashion in their research note “Global Market Aftershocks”:

“Like the rest of the world, we are watching the tragic events in Japan intently, with great sympathy for a nation that has seen more than its share of disasters over the years….”

Finally, here is a charity recommended by my longtime friend, Gen Kanai, who is living through the crisis in real time, having just evacuated his family from Tokyo to Kobe in the face of the radiation risk:

The U.S.-Japan Council Earthquake Relief Fund