Japan's "angry mayor" making himself heard

Futoshi Toba
Futoshi Toba
CBS News

(CBS News) Last year's earthquake and tsunami shattered the faith of many Japanese in their central government.

Now, a mayor who suffered a very personal loss is throwing traditional Japanese reserve aside, he says, to make his city safer.

CBS News correspondent Lucy Craft reports that in a country known for stoicism and patience, Mayor Futoshi Toba is anything but.

"If I tried to please everyone, we'd get nowhere," Toba says.

What he wants is a complete rebuild of his city Rikuzen-Takada. It was erased by the tsunami, killing 2,000 residents - one out of every ten - including his wife of 15 years, Kumi.

"People have to die for nothing? For their sake, I must rebuild our town, as their mayor, and as my wife's husband," Toba says.

So now, Mayor Toba is a man in a hurry.

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He tells CBS News he's got big plans - a memorial park, a state-of-the-art, compact downtown.

But first he needs a seawall. In the worst-hit downtown area, the new barrier will stretch nearly a mile long and top 40 feet - a massive project that could take six years.

In blunt language, Toba told one of Japan's leading papers: "It's pointless to say, wait for six years, until the seawall is built. I've urged the prefecture to speed it up, but they just don't get it."

With traumatized residents moving out, the city is poised for a slow death, its population down by nearly 20 percent since the disaster.

Unwilling to sit and quietly endure, Toba shows up at local festivals, in YouTube appeals.

"Even if it kills my political future, I must do what I think is right, and damn the consequences," Toba says in one.

Toba will do anything to keep the pressure on, and his town's plight in the news.