Science, Tech & Environment

Tsunami Reconstruction Scandal in Japan


The Kokuritshu Kasumigaoka stadium in Tokyo is receiving money from the tsunami reconstruction fund, even though it was not affected by the disaster. (Photo: Wiki Commons)

The recovery from disasters like Hurricane Sandy can last for years.

Player utilities

This story is based on a radio interview. Listen to the full interview.

A scandal is gripping Japan right now over the earthquake and tsunami that devastated that country in March 2011.

Japan set aside $239 billion for reconstruction.

But independent audits now show that much of that money – perhaps a quarter – has been diverted into pork-barrel projects, far away from the disaster zone.

These include millions diverted to update the National Stadium in Tokyo and to repair roads in Okinawa.

Neither of these were affected by the disaster.

Money has also gone to subsidize a contact lens factory, and to assist Japan's whaling fleet fend off environmental activists in the Arctic Ocean.

At the same time, businesses and public institutions like hospitals in the disaster area have been denied money.

Hiroko Tabuchi of The New York Times says there's a lot of anger in Japan over the issue.

But the government insists it's doing nothing illegal, since the law authorizing the funds calls for revitalizing Japan.

Tabuchi says people did not expect the money to be diverted so far away.