A chance to do more than rebuild Tohoku
Disaster an opportunity for new national paradigm
Miyagi Gov. Yoshihiro Murai stands before a gathering in Tokyo of 300 representatives of the nation's biggest companies and community organizations.
High and dry: A man on July 13 stands in front of a fishing vessel swept inland by the March tsunami in Kesennuma, Miyagi Prefecture. BLOOMBERG
It's his last stop of the day and his third visit to the capital in a month. Murai races through the high points of his 80-page plan to rebuild Miyagi, to raise it up from its devastation with the help of economic development. Suddenly, Murai pauses. His face breaks into a grin.
"We're coming up with a lot of benefits for businesses in Miyagi," he says. "So I hope you come before we run out of land."
Murai, 51, has traveled to Tokyo on this day in late July to sell corporate Japan on his grand vision of remaking the ruined region. The one-time Self-Defense Forces helicopter pilot says he's not drinking a drop of alcohol until the last of the 320,885 people who were evacuated from their coastal homes are able to move out of the prefecture's emergency shelters.
Murai's eye is already on something much larger and more daunting, however: turning Miyagi's 200 km of wrecked coastline into the country's most attractive investment spot. Murai says he wants to create a model economy in Miyagi that could be replicated in the 46 other prefectures.
Japan as a nation, like Miyagi and the Tohoku region, can't afford to return to its predisaster trail of deflation and debt, he says in an interview.
"If things continue along the same path, Japan will sink," he says.
The economy has been underwater for some time. The country's strongest recorded earthquake slammed the economy after two decades of stagnation that saw nominal gross domestic product repeatedly rise only to fall back down from 1991 to 2011.
A chance to do more than rebuild Tohoku | The Japan Times Online