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Black Wave: How Networks and Governance Shaped Japan’s 3/11 Disasters, Daniel P. Aldrich

Reviewed by Richard J. Samuels



The Japanese people were promised much—too much, it turned out—in the immediate aftermath of the triple catastrophes that struck northeastern Japan in March 2011. Everything from public safety to national politics and social policy would be fixed, reborn, renewed, revitalized, transformed, reconstructed, and renovated. Daniel P. Aldrich, a specialist on post- disaster resiliency and controversial siting decisions, has produced a tidy evaluation of the social, political, and economic impacts wrought by the earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear power plant meltdown known collectively there as 3.11.

Aldrich cuts through the thick fog of crisis management, reaching for— and often producing—a clarity that only the passage of time makes possible. He effectively draws upon a decade of research by Japanese social scientists as well as on his own field-based survey and interview data. To his credit, he makes a special effort to ensure that his carefully curated data are accessible to the general reader.

The structure of his analysis is straightforward. Aldrich begins framing his portrait of the aftermath of 3.11 with a chapter focused on individual survivors, and he proceeds, chapter by chapter, to examine the repercussions of the catastrophe at different levels of governance, starting with municipalities, followed by prefectures (the Japan

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