Stain Of Disaster Remains In Some Areas Of Japan

Weekends on All Things Considered host Guy Raz speaks with Lucy Craft, a reporter based in Japan, to get an update on the status of the country 10 months after the devastating earthquake and tsunami. Craft says Tokyo appears mostly normal, but northern Japan still has a long way to go.

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Ten months ago, reporter Lucy Craft who's based in Tokyo was about to get the story of her career. The earthquake and subsequent tsunami left nearly 16,000 people dead, most of them in northern Japan. Here's a clip from her reporting on that day.

LUCY CRAFT: The scenes of horror playing out on national TV, scenes of biblical proportion, an entire town engulfed in flames. Hundreds of bodies discovered, victims of tsunami waves more than 30 feet high.

RAZ: That was reporter Lucy Craft on the day of that earthquake. She joins us now to talk about what has happened in Japan since then. Lucy, welcome back to the program.

CRAFT: Glad to be here.

RAZ: First of all, how has the day-to-day life changed in parts of Japan since that earthquake? I mean, if you landed in Tokyo for example today, would it seem any different?

CRAFT: No. The months directly after the earthquake, there was - we were under a very draconian energy conservation campaign. But now, you probably wouldn't be able to tell. I mean, things have pretty much gone back to normal, physically I would say. Emotionally, I think people are still a little bit rattled.

RAZ: And, of course, it's different in the north, right?

CRAFT: Yeah. In northern Japan - I actually was up in northern Japan. I took the kids up last weekend and we went to go volunteer in Ishinomaki, which was one of the hardest hit of the larger towns along the coast. And when you drive into downtown you just see this giant graveyard of cars that were destroyed in the earthquake. You still see row upon row upon row of the ruins of houses. So, we're still very much in the early stages of the recovery.

RAZ: At what point does the government estimate it will be able to say we are now past this, we have now rebuilt and recovered?

CRAFT: Oh, gosh. Everyone I talk to up in the disaster zone - and this is not national government, these are people who, you know, are still living in temporary housing or have had their stores destroyed. Everyone is saying 10 years. It's going to take at least 10 years. You know, places where the waves came in and swept away everything that was near the coast. It's bare. So, these places right now, the people have all been shipped away to temporary housing. All the other basic services or government are operating similarly out of temporary quarters.

Meanwhile, you've got to go where the jobs are. So a lot of people are moving out temporary. A lot of those people won't come back. It's really a race against time to restore some semblance of a local economy so that people can continue to live there.

RAZ: That's reporter Lucy Craft. She is based in Tokyo, updating us on the situation in Japan, 10 months after the earthquake in the northern part of the country. Lucy, thank you so much.

CRAFT: It's been my pleasure.

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