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February 13, 2012

JAPAN: “For whom are we rebuilding?”

NEW YORK, NY / The New York Times / Asia Pacific / February 13, 2012

As Japan Works to Patch Itself Up, a Rift Between Generations Opens

Hiroaki Suzuki, 21, opposes rebuilding a small village, saying he wants to live in a centralized community away
from the sea. Kazuhiro Yokozeki for The New York Times

ONAGAWA, Japan — At age 39, Yoshiaki Suda, the new mayor of this town that was destroyed by last March’s tsunami, oversees a community where the votes, money and influence lie among its large population of graying residents. But for Onagawa to have a future, he must rebuild it in such a way as to make it attractive to those of his generation and younger.

“That’s the most difficult problem,” Mr. Suda said. “For whom are we rebuilding?”

The reconstruction of Onagawa and the rest of the coast where the tsunami hit is a preview of what may be the most critical test Japan will face in the decades ahead. In a country where power rests disproportionately among older people, how does Japan, which has the world’s most rapidly aging population, use its dwindling resources to build a society that looks to the future as much as to the past?

The clashing generational interests are perhaps most striking here in Onagawa, ......Click to continue

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