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In Japan, recovery is clouded by skepticism via USA Today

By Calum MacLeod, USA TODAY

ONAGAWA, Japan – With several formal bows and two rounds of applause, a dozen local representatives handed the mayor a blueprint to save their seaside home.

Beneath the town’s cartoon mascot, a duck cradling a fish, their draft reconstruction plan bore a new slogan, coined by a schoolchild: “Let’s get it back — Onagawa, a town full of smiles.”

Now all the town needs is lots of money, says Nobutaka Azumi, 66, the solemn-faced mayor, after Onagawa became one of Japan’s first communities to set out a recovery path from the devastating tsunami that killed more than 800 people here and 20,000 nationwide.

“It was hard to make infrastructural changes before,” he says. “This might be our chance to improve the town.”

Five months after the March 11 earthquake, less affected areas of Japan largely are back to normal. Major highways, bullet trains, power and water utilities have been restored. The economy contracted at a slower pace from April through June than the consensus forecast expected, and it may rebound this quarter as supply chains are restored.

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