Ahead of the 10th anniversary of the 3/11 triple disaster, the economy of affected areas is showing signs of faltering. Miyagi, Iwate and Fukushima prefectures have suffered negative growth in 2020, as reconstruction projects dried up and the novel coronavirus spread across the country.

The agency established in 2012 to take over the debts of disaster-hit businesses from banks has provided assistance such as debt relief to 744 small firms to date, but only 21%, or 155 companies, had completed their turnaround as of September, while 24 went under.

While vital farm, forestry and fisheries production in Miyagi and Iwate has recovered to pre-March 2011 levels, the membership of fishing cooperatives in the region has dropped more than the national average over the past decade. In Miyagi, the number of regular, as opposed to associate, members of the co-ops — meaning those who work at sea — has halved from pre-3/11 levels.

Farming in Fukushima 10 years after the nuclear meltdown | VICE NEWS
Farming in Fukushima 10 years after the nuclear meltdown | VICE NEWS

The revival in Fukushima Prefecture is lagging behind that seen in the rest of the region. About 8% of consumers in Japan still hesitate to buy food from Fukushima due to fears about radiation from the 2011 triple meltdown, a recent survey showed.

Meanwhile, small local firms have largely been locked out of the work to decommission the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant, though that may be about to change. Over 100 local firms have registered with a new support center tasked with matching local firms with contractors involved in the decades-long project.

Moves are also afoot to offer fresh alternatives to the farm, fish and forestry work that is the mainstay of the local economy. The Fukushima Innovation Coast Framework, for example, led by the national and prefectural governments, is courting robotics and other advanced tech firms from across Japan.