Japan continues to recover, if slowly, from the devastating earthquake and tsunami on March 11. Facing threats on multiple threats, Prime Minister Naoto Kan continued to appeal for calm and understanding, and for the Japanese people to start spending again to boost the economy.
A large group of lawmakers from Kan's own political party, the Democratic Party of Japan, gathered to discuss strategies to convince Kan to resign, echoing a growing number of Japanese people who think that the government's response to the crisis has been inadequate in speed and scope. The calls from the DPJ were a bit surprising to observers, who were not at all surprised by continuing resignation calls from the opposition. For his part, Kan, who has been personally touring temporary shelters, continued with the work of rebuilding the infrastructure of the country and the confidence of the people.
Also under fire has been Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), owner of the Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Power Plant, to which so much damage has been done by the 9.0-magnitude quake. TEPCO officials have employed a series of protective measures at the Fukushima plant since the first explosions occurred, not long after the quake occurred, and the radiation is largely under control at this point; but the 12-mile no-go zone is still in effect, leaving tens of thousands of people without permanent homes, and the strategy of dumping seawater onto the damaged reactors, although successful in preventing widespread damage and panic, has resulted in contaminated water and soil.
TEPCO recently announced that all of the reactors at the Fukushima plant would be locked down into "cold shutdown" in the latter months of this year. In a repeat of a previous strategy, TEPCO sent two Packbot crawler robots into areas of the nuclear power plant having the highest levels of radiation, to report back via photos and data collection just how bad things are.
Meanwhile, the country's businesses continued to struggle in the wake of the twin disasters. On the heels of the announcement of a $50 billion recovery plan, the government announced the steepest drop in retail sales in 13 years. A 5.1 percent jump in fuel sales was nowhere enough to offset precipitous drops in sales of cars, machinery, clothes, and textiles. Poor sales mirrored the general mood of the country, which was a wholesale drop in confidence that is still very much evident.