Almost as painful as watching video of the quake has been some of the reportage such as watching what were obviously liquified natural gas storage tanks (burning) repeatedly referred to as an “oil refinery” and listening to an earthquake expert try to explain to a goofy talking head the difference between a subduction fault (such as in Japan or the Cascadia) and a strike-slip fault (such as the San Andreas).
Still, I wonder if there isn’t a tiny bit of silver lining in this for the Japanese. For almost 2 decades now, their economy has been in the doldrums and flirting with deflation. Mostly this is demographic–their population is both aging and declining in numbers due to a low birth rate (which they share with other developed economies) but also a low immigration rate (which is a problem almost uniquely theirs in the first world). The huge economic stimulus that will result from the rebuilding efforts in Northeastern Honshu may finally put their economy into a growth spurt, at least temporarily.
I have to add that in watching the video that has been repeatedly shown of the CNN bureau in Tokyo where it starts off slow and gets more and more violent and stuff begins falling off every shelf etc, I had something of a flashback to 1989. That’s how it was: At first you thought maybe it’s a really big truck going by, then you thought, “No, it’s a quake (but that’s not too unusual in either NorCal or Japan)” then you begin to think, “Uh oh, maybe this is it–the BIG ONE (we’ve all known would come someday)”. In our case, it turned out to be a “sort of big one” but not THE BIG ONE (1906 over again). In Japan, well, I guess maybe it was.