A great irony of the current political situation may be that fixing Fukushima is a concrete example of a crisis where many Japanese people might actually agree that the government should be able to exercise broad emergency powers of the type the Liberal Democratic Party wants to enshrine in a new constitution. Indeed, the absence of such powers may be one reason why the government seems so frustratingly passive.
However, to recognize Fukushima as a greater threat would entail admitting responsibility for the failed nuclear policies of the past, and make it that much harder to bring other plants back online, not to mention sully Tokyo’s winning Olympic bid. So while Tepco keeps trying to patch radioactive holes that render parts of the Japanese mainland uninhabitable, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe seeks support for his authoritarian new constitution by emphasizing territorial disputes involving islands that were never inhabited in the first place.
It will probably take an imminent crisis for the government to resolve any of the serious problems facing the nation today — not just Fukushima, but the national debt, declining global competitiveness, the shrinking population and growing demographic imbalance.
Unfortunately, the historical precedents are not great. It took a double atom-bombing and (by some accounts) two separate admonitions by Emperor Hirohito for Japan’s “leaders” to finally accept the Potsdam Declaration and end World War II. Of course, being constitutionally “sacred and inviolable,” the Emperor could not be held responsible for anything.
We can’t expect similar Deus ex Machina resolutions to Fukushima or anything else. Japan is supposedly a democracy, so in theory a responsibility-shirking government is ultimately the people’s problem — and responsibility — just as much as the nuclear disaster and all the nation’s other problems. Fortunately the people have a plentiful supply of other targets to blame until enough of them come to that realization.