Faced with a disaster on a scale unprecedented in postwar Japan, Prime Minister Naoto Kan's Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) government has been presented with a mammoth task in managing the initial rescue effort and the ongoing provision of emergency services. Compounding and almost over-shadowing the natural disaster is the seemingly endless crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.

The fledgling DPJ are relatively untested in government. Formed by the merger of several opposition parties in 1998, the DPJ came to power in 2009, breaking the near unbroken rule of the Liberal Democratic Party. Having assumed office following the resignation of Yukio Hatoyama, Kan had only been in office nine months at the time of the of the March 11 disaster.