Disaster recovery expert Edward J. Blakely writes that there are two main problems holding Japan back from adequately responding to the disaster's impacts.
"A first dilemma: the Japanese were unable to react to a disaster that didn't fit their game plan. We heard and read how they were surprised by the tsunami breaking through the coastal defences, as well as how un-prepared their nuclear team was. But there's a greater issue for Japan lurking behind those surprises. Simply put, it's the Japanese nation's lack of flexibility in response to almost anything and everything that occurs in public and private spheres. On the one hand this characteristic has made the Japanese automobiles and electric appliances and cameras among the most reliable in the world. But when the Japanese operations manual fails, as it did during the tsunami, then the system has few responses, leaving the nation and communities paralysed.
Related to this is Japan's very narrow hierarchy. True, Japan pioneered the notion of assembly line corrections and improvements on the factory floor. But no such approach has been developed in government operations. In fact, virtually all decisions are made at the top - assuming anyone at the top will make the decisions."