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Japan knows how to rise from the ashes

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AP Photo/Mark Baker

(Read caption) People queue at a radiation emergency scanning center in Koriyama, Japan. Radiation leaked from a crippled nuclear plant in tsunami-ravaged northeastern Japan after a third reactor was rocked by an explosion Tuesday and a fourth caught fire in a dramatic escalation of the 4-day-old catastrophe. The government warned anyone nearby to stay indoors to avoid exposure.

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As Japan struggles with a nuclear crisis atop the natural disaster the struck last week, it may seem premature to consider what happens after the dust settles.

People along the northeast coast of Japan's main island, Honshu, are still in need of basic assistance. Blackouts have hit Tokyo and other urban areas. Industrial production has plummeted. Food and fuel are in short supply. And the threat to the Fukushima nuclear complex remains grave.

The Japanese eventually will master the situation. And their energy, intelligence, wealth, and social cohesion ensure that the subsequent rebuilding will not be a lost opportunity. Just as Japan emerged from the rubble of World War II to become a high-tech powerhouse, post-tsunami Japan will rethink everything from highways to ports, transportation to the power supply.

The task is daunting, but for a culture whose industrial philosophy is summed up by the word "kaizen" -- continuous improvement -- rebuilding will give Japan a 21st century infrastructure. Though economic disruption is severe at the moment, rebuilding eventually will give Japan a massive economic stimulus program certain to pull it out of the doldrums it has been in for the past two decades.

The past has shown the Japanese remarkably able to rise from the ashes.


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