The Geekonomy and the Japanese Earthquake.

I really hate writing this post, yet I should.

This is the inevitable "Steve Comments on The Geekonomic Impact of the Japanese Disaster" post.  I don't want to write it because, as I create it, the crisis is still going on and people are suffering.  I don't want to write it because I don't want to get cold and detached and analytic.

I do write it because it is what I do, because the impact is important, because it is what I do for you, our reader.

I'm just noting right now I'm uncomfortable with this.

So let me say right out of the gate that I'm sure some of this is totally and absolutely wrong.  We all know that instinctively, I'm predicting the future here, but I want to get it out and be honest.

So, here is what I see the impact of the Japan Diaster being on the Geekonomy.


  • There will be a second (or continuing depending how you view it) Japanese recession just because this disaster is so incredibly bad.  It's a testimony to the planning and preparation done that this wasn't far worse – even the horrors of the nuclear problems too a 9.1 earthquake to cause.  But the Japan that emerges will probably be one where several businesses and economic processes die off from this – a slimmer Japanese economy as it were (which will doubtlessly not benefit everyone).
  • The recovery will produce, obviously, some mass cultural shifts.  We've all heard stories about "Freeders" and their lifes of not-guaranteed employment.  You've heard tales of "Grass-Eating Men" and the supposed wimpification of the Japanese Male that was popularly mentioned in media.  With jobs being created in cleanup, having endured this mess, I expect a Japan to emerge that will have put people to work (hopefully) and perhaps even gained some confidence oddly cut with humility and caution. 
  • Japan isn't going away for obvious reasons.  I expect some companies there may diversify their locations.
  • I've seen pretty decent goodwill towards Japan, despite the obvious stupid comments mentioned in the media.  If Japan works with that it could be good for the country's future.
  • People are both happy and unhappy with the handling of the disaster – for obvious reasons.  There will be political shakeups.


  • Short term there's an obvious hit to Japan's geekonomic output.  That's obvious. 
  • "Cool Japan" in general will return quickly than other industries.  Why?  Because it's a way to make money that's relatively fast – the Culture Engine of Japan has work that can be done anywhere, with multiple resources.  A dev team can move elsewhere, an author can compose from elsewhere.  Some Japanese media companies have this down to a science.
  • Kodansha's big announcement about a Sailor Moon reprint?  I expect that heralds a trend.  Companies with a large backlog of media can quickly translate it and put it on the market to make money.  I expect media companies to try and leverage "Cool Japan" right now.
  • There may be a slight shift of some Japanese multinationals away from Japan for the time being, and perhaps in the future, to have less "eggs in one basket."  I don't expect this to be a huge trend, but it may be one that brings more jobs to certain areas.
  • I suspect that the potential for J-Pop to become more widespread in America will increase as companies, again, seek profitable opportunities.
  • Gaming, which obviously takes some investment of time and talent, may have a harder time recovering than other "Cool Japan" industries.
  • Several games made in other countries are outsourced to Japanese ones in whole or in part.  Those are going to be impacted, and the politics of those impact may shift development elsewhere.  I do expect between this and other trends, gaming is an industry that will take a hit in Japan, at least on the studio level – there are game studios all over Japan, and games you enjoy may actually be made by people you never heard of.

So those are my takes.  I feel a bit better having written it, but am still uncomfortable doing so at this time.  I hope it helps, and look forward to any feedback.

Steven Savage