While physical aftershocks from the earthquake that struck Japan on March 11, 2011, have long ceased, societal aftershocks are still reverberating. Most obviously, 110,000 of the evacuees forced to flee from the worst nuclear accident since Chernobyl have yet to return to their homes. For many Japanese - not just the evacuees and their famiilies - their dislocation is an open wound. 

At the same time, Japanese society has gained a new interest in its country's governance. Until the accident, it had been willing to let bureaucrats make most key policies with a minimum of interference. Now, a wave of public involvement, which was started by dissatisfaction over energy policy, is having effects in unrelated areas, such as pensions. 

A robust and engaged civil society is surely a welcome development. Japan has been in a sustained economic slump for almost two decades, partly as a result of a political system devoid of imagination and unable to innovate. (Although, hopefully, Japan's new prime minister's signature economic policy of "Abenomics" will turn out to be an exception to that rule.) It may be painful for the Kasumigaseki bureaucrats, but an injection of energy from civil society could - perhaps - be a turning point....

This book was published by Routledge.