On March 11, 2011, a 9.0 earthquake off Japan’s northeast coast triggered a tsunami that killed more than 20,000 people, displaced 600,000, and caused billions of dollars in damage as well as a nuclear meltdown of three reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. Japan, the world’s third largest economy, was already grappling with recovery from both its own economic recession of the 1990s and the global recession following the U.S.-driven financial crisis of 2008 when the disaster hit, changing its fortunes yet again.
This small, populous Asian nation—once thought to be a contender for the role of the world’s number one power—now faces a world of uncertainty. Japan’s economy has shrunk, China has challenged its borders, and it faces perilous demographic adjustments from decreased fertility and an aging populace, with the country’s population expected to drop to less than 100 million by 2048.
Anne Allison, professor of cultural anthropology and women’s studies, and her co-editor marshal the insights of Japanese economic, political and cultural scholars to examine the various roads that might lie ahead for Japan as it grapples with multiple challenges. Her earlier book, Precarious Japan (2013), argued that decreasing job stability, a shrinking population and nuclear contamination had radically altered how Japanese relate to one another.