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Japan's post-tsunami struggle continues

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AP Photo/Lee Jin-man

(Read caption) A worker loads boxes containing bottles of water onto a truck to distribute to households with infants at a warehouse in Tokyo. Anxiety over Japan's food and water supplies soared following warnings about radiation leaking from Japan's tsunami-damaged nuclear power plant into Tokyo's tap water at levels unsafe for babies over the long term.

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While workers are making progress at the Fukushima nuclear complex, the effects of the March 11 earthquake and tsunami continue to challenge the people of Japan. The latest problem is the elevated level of radioactivity in food and water.

Supermarket shelves in Tokyo and northern Japan had already been depleted because of supply disruptions and hording. Now the government has halted distribution of leafy vegetables from four prefectures near Fukushima and warned families in the Tokyo area not to give young children drinking water.

Even in normal times, the Japanese pay close attention to what they consume. Over the years, Japanese food safety officials have restricted imports from the United States and other countries over quality concerns. Now, radiation concerns have prompted the US to restrict some Japanese food imports.

This is the costliest disaster in Japanese history, with infrastructure repairs estimated at more than $310 billion. And costs don't end there. From factories idled to food safety to questions about whether the government has been honest with information, almost every aspect of Japanese society has been tested.

The Japanese people are remarkably resilient and long-suffering. Nevertheless, Japan that emerges from this disaster is likely to be a very different place than it was before March 11.


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