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Japan will recover

Democracy, not stoicism, gives the country resilience

By Oliver Kamm   April 2011

Surveying the destruction wreaked by Japan’s recent earthquake and tsunami, Prime Minister Naoto Kan declared it the greatest crisis Japan has faced since the second world war. His comparison was carefully chosen. The memory of the deaths of hundreds of thousands of civilians in 1945 has determined the country’s stance in the international order ever since. But Japan’s varying responses over the past century to a number of domestic catastrophes reveal much about its society—and how the transformation from autocracy to democracy, even a sclerotic one, has enhanced the country’s ability to cope with adversity.

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