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On March 13, 2011, Haruhiko Kuroda stared out the window as our Boeing 777 descended toward a Tokyo in chaos, visibly anxious about what we might encounter. It was two days after the near-cataclysmic earthquake struck northeastern Japan and precipitated a nuclear meltdown. I was in the Philippines when as many as 20,000 died, and grabbed the first Tokyo-bound flight that was allowed to land. Kuroda, then president of the Manila-based Asian Development Bank, sat across from me on the near-empty flight. We remarked on the obvious irony of us rushing to a city hundreds of thousands were fleeing. “I’m returning to do what I can to help,” he said.

Two years later, Kuroda returned again to helm the Bank of Japan. But my four-hour flight with him was stuck in my mind as Japan commemorated the fifth anniversary of that record trembler. As Kuroda and I chatted about the devastation in Tohoku and the unfolding Fukushima crisis, my fingers were clicking away on what days later would be Bloomberg BusinessWeek’s cover story, “Crisis in Japan.”

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