Tom Butts is the Editor in Chief of TV Technology.
The scenes of devastation out of Japan over the past month have been nothing short of astounding. One of the most technologically advanced societies on the face of the earth has been dealt a severe blow and it will take years, if not decades for the country to recover.
Matsushima Bay, near Sendai was devastated by the earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan. Japan holds a special place in our industry. If it can be said that much of the world's most popular programming comes from the U.S., it follows that so much of the technology to make it possible comes from Japan. Reports from some of the major manufacturers in our industry have noted that most of the employees and facilities were not harmed, but others have struggled to regain their footing. Sony, in particular, suspended operations in five plants due to shortages. The company's manufacturing base is based in the Tohoku prefecture in the northeast part of the country, which took the brunt of the damage from the earthquake and tsunami. Fortunately, the company was able to confirm the safety of all its employees and those employed by its group of companies in regions affected by the disaster. A report in the Wall St. Journal characterized the country's stoic nature in the face of calamity. "The Japanese culture is to remain calm," Sony Chairman Howard Stringer said. "There is no time for people to feel sorry for themselves."
And while it might seem trivial to some to focus on whether or not product shipments get delayed a week or two, it's the economy that will play such an important role in Japan's recovery. A report from the World Bank, released just after the event, estimated that the final cost to the country could be as high as $235 billion, making it the costliest disaster since comparable records began in 1965.
When I visited Japan in 2004, I was struck by the orderliness of the place and cultural discipline. I was fortunate to visit the Sendai area, where Sony's optical disc and battery manufacturing facilities are located; I was able to capture the strikingly beautiful landscape of Matsushima Bay on the last morning of my visit. I have since learned that the area was devastated by the tsunami and only the pine trees remain.
More than most, Japan has been repeatedly challenged by both manmade and natural calamities. The earthquake, tsunami and resulting nuclear crisis will certainly test the determination of the Japanese people, who are facing their biggest humanitarian challenge in more than 60 years.