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“Japan’s Worst-Case Scenarios” — that’s the title of the lead feature in the July issue of the monthly Takarajima. No one writing on such a theme need fear a shortage of material. The magazine easily fills 40 pages analyzing catastrophes and catastrophes-in-waiting: Tokyo leveled by a magnitude 9 quake; volcanic Mount Fuji erupting; 2 million Japanese dead in an influenza pandemic; an earthquake occurring immediately beneath a nuclear power plant unleashing horrors scarcely imaginable; Japan targeted by North Korean missiles; economic collapse; political paralysis; creeping radioactivity… Is that all? No. The list is long but space is short.

You can be an optimist and say none of this will actually happen, except what already has, but optimism is a discipline more easily acquired in some environments than in others. Even an optimist would have to concede that Japan today confronts problems that will not solve themselves. Who’s to lead in solving them? The government, naturally, but in Japan’s case it seems fair to ask, What government?

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