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Lighting The Tokyo Tower

The Tokyo Tower’s lights have now been off for several days.

If you have ever been to Tokyo, its Tower has been a source of civic pride for all Japanese since it was opened in 1958. The Tower went dark due to rolling blackouts in Tokyo and nationally due to electricity shortages in the wake of the earthquakes, tsunami and nuclear accidents that began March 11.

Rarely do trade journals cover world or national events. At TWICE, the two notable exceptions have been the 9/11 attacks on the U.S. and Hurricane Katrina. There is now, unfortunately, a third exception: coverage of the March 11 Japanese earthquake, tsunami and its aftermath.

While there have been other earthquakes, tsunamis and industrial accidents worldwide over the years, this one hits home if you are in the CE business. That’s because Japan is the home to so many familiar industry brands, too many to list here for fear of forgetting one or two.

But this isn’t just about business. It is personal for all of us because Japan is the homeland of many industry friends and colleagues.

If you have been fortunate like some of us at TWICE and have visited Japan over the years, you have experienced its culture and, more importantly, the hospitality and friendship of its people, who are nothing if not generous, hard-working and innovative.

So the pictures, videos and accounts of horrific destruction, human suffering and loss of life in Japan that we have seen and heard cuts a little bit deeper.

We began contacting Japanese CE manufacturers on March 11, along with the rest of the industry, to see what effect the disaster will have on the CE industry in the U.S. and worldwide.

The attempt to cover the economic aspects of this story has given us pause. More than one of our sources, and our editors, have said, “How can we talk about mundane economic and business issues when hundreds of thousands in Japan, if not more, are suffering and dying? How can we talk about business when nuclear reactors are unstable?”

The trite answer is, “That’s what we do for a living.” More accurately, we have to look to the future. We have to try to find out how this catastrophe will affect the industry over the short and long term.

We owe that to our own companies, co-workers and customers. And we certainly owe that to our friends, colleagues and business partners in Japan who are anxious to rebuild their homes, lives and businesses and so they can get back to some sort of normalcy.

The thoughts and prayers of the TWICE staff are with the Japanese people during this dark time. And I hope we soon see the Tokyo Tower’s lights shining over the city’s skyline very soon, representing the beginning of Japan’s rebuilding and recovery.

This column originally appeared in the March 21, 2011 print edition of TWICE.