Japanese elites have sought to use 3.11 to nudge national policy in the direction of their own choosing. For some, 3.11 was a warning for Japan to “put it in gear’’ and go in a new direction. Japan’s national interests would be achieved only by moving forward vigorously, even beyond dependence on the United States or nuclear power. For others, the catastrophe was a once in a millennium “black swan,” so Japan should “stay the course.’’ It was in Japan’s interest to do what it had been doing, but better. Directional change would be counterproductive. Still others declared that 3.11 taught that Japan must return to an idealized past and rebuild what was lost to modernity and globalization. The battle among these perspectives on change, and the use of three other “meta-narratives”: leadership, community, and risk have defined post-3.11 politics and public policy in Japan.
Richard J. SAMUELS is Ford International Professor of Political Science and Director of the Center for International Studies at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He is also Chairman of the Japan-U.S. Friendship Commission and founding director of the MIT Japan Program. He is author of several award-winning books, including "Machiavelli's Children: Leaders and Their Legacies in Italy and Japan" (2003) and "Rich Nation, Strong Army": National Security and the Technological Transformation of Japan" (1996), also from Cornell. In summer 2012, he is a Visiting Professor at the Institute of East Asian Studies - Japanese Studies at FU Berlin.