The world has gotten used to gloomy news coming out of Japan. And recently, it hasn't been disappointed: New reports suggest that the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, which was stricken during last year's tsunami, may be sitting on top of an active geological fault line, further dimming the chances that it will ever resume operations. Japanese utilities are predicting massive power shortages this summer as the demand for electricity exceeds available supply by as much as 20 percent. Meanwhile, the central bank is meeting to discuss the country's worrisome inflation rates, and Europe's austerity measures have reduced the demand for Japanese exports.
But Japan, the world's third-largest economy and one of the wealthiest countries on Earth, still has more than a few strengths. And as Michael Auslin explains, the country is throwing off a 60-year tradition of pacifism to seize a new leadership role in the Asian-Pacific. "The transformation of Japan's security posture is slowly changing how the country interacts with the rest of the world," Auslin writes. "It is more capable, more experienced, and more willing to consider altering decades-old practices."
Here's a visual tour of a some of the many the things Japan's still got going for it. To start off, Japanese cultural traditions continue to be widely practiced. Above, two student sumo wrestlers carry crying babies stand beside a referee clad in a traditional costume during the "Baby-cry Sumo" competition at Sensoji temple in Tokyo on April 21. Many Japanese parents believe that babies who have been made to cry by sumo wrestlers grow up healthier. More than 100 babies under the age of one took part in the annual baby-crying contest.