The world has been transfixed with the growing mass of videos and images coming out of Japan, each more terrifying and unbelievable than the last. On 11 March 2011, a huge earthquake measuring 9.0 on the Richter scale struck in the Pacific Ocean, near to the coast of Japan. By comparison, February’s devastating earthquake in Christchurch in New Zealand, where 65 people died, reached 6.3.
Both New Zealand and Japan sit on the infamous Pacific Ring of Fire. The Ring marks the points where the Pacific tectonic plate touches adjacent plates. Along this line, which reaches parts of North and South America, Asia and Australia, is concentrated the world’s most intense earthquake and volcanic activity.
Over 230,000 people (the overwhelming majority in Indonesia) died in a tsunami caused by an earthquake off the coast of Sumatra in 2004, showing that those far from the Ring of Fire are not immune from risk. Tsunamis (a Japanese word) occur when one tectonic plate is forced under another under the sea, resulting in a sudden and huge displacement of water. Giant waves, which increase in height when they hit shallower waters, can travel miles over land, destroying everything in their path.
Japan (by no means unused to seismic disturbances) suffered first the earthquake and then a resulting and unprecedented tsunami that hit coastal areas, leaving 9,000+ currently confirmed dead and many more still missing. When it was revealed a nuclear power plant had been damaged, Japan’s troubles truly seemed never-ending. The strong and long-time powerful Japanese economy was initially hit hard, dropping 16% in two days, before quickly recovering as the Nikkei 225 regained points. Everyone’s still unsure as to the future threat the failing nuclear reactors will have on the country since its been realized that radiation is leaking into some natural foods as well as milk.
Many businesses and factories in Japan shut down to conserve national energy resources and to help prevent electricity being cut off from households. Foreign markets suffered from a fear of a breakdown in the international parts supply line.
Non-Japanese automobile manufacturers rely on Japanese electrical components and batteries for hybrid cars. European firms such as BMW and Volvo still don’t know the effect on their production due to the stalling of Japanese industry.
Fans of cars and the rally driving experience will be hoping world-famous brands such as Toyota, Nissan, Suzuki, Mazda and Honda are not too badly affected. In 2008, Toyota overtook the USA’s General Motors as the world’s largest car manufacturer. China produces the most cars of any nation, but it cannot match the quality of Japanese vehicles or its hold on the car market in the developed world.
Just as the Japanese economy has proved resilient, no doubt this blip in its car industry will disappear – the track days UK, other European, and US companies run will continue to include Japanese cars. We should, however, all send our best wishes to our friends in Japan and count our blessings.
Here’s to hoping Japanese sports cars never stop being some of the best out there.