On March 11, an 8.9-magnitude earthquake and tsunami struck the island of Japan in tandem, sending shock waves and walls of water crashing through its northeastern coastal cities. The devastation stretched for miles, thousands of homes were destroyed, roads became impassable and power lines were downed. Cars piled on the roofs of four-story buildings, and the death toll rose higher and higher: 15,000 dead and an additional 5,000 officially missing. To make matters worse, there were concerns about radiation leaking from two nuclear-power plants near the epicenter. It was, writes author Bill Emott in Newsweek, like visiting the worst of all war zones. From out of the debris, the Japanese people rallied. Neighbors took to the streets, wielding shovels and directing traffic. Politicians in Tokyo spoke of a better, stronger nation. They had rebuilt themselves before, and they would do it again. But when Emott revisited Onogawa, a small fishing port on the northeastern coast, he was surprised by how little, in fact, had changed. The streets were clear, but the only noticeable new building was an ice plant. It was a town waiting. It was a region where levels of clinical depression are rising. The country has already changed prime ministers: Yoshihiko Noda now faces a daunting gauntlet of issues, ranging from Japan’s ballooning public debt—already at 200 percent of GDP—to what to do with the country’s heavily nuclear, and now thoroughly unpopular, energy strategy. The Japanese have always lived in a world surrounded by risk. But March 11 proved that no amount of modernity and efficiency could prevent the unthinkable from happening. The world is watching now to see the proud nation’s next move.