journal, nuclear radiation

day 6, wednesday march 16

personally, wednesday was one of the most difficult days.

on wednesday, the situation at the nuclear reactor at fukushima became more dangerous, there was a spike in radioactivity, and i felt like the attitude of people changed, both people i know and also the people out at about.

its seemed like some kind of nuclear accident was quite possible. people seemed more serious and somber, you started to be able to hear them talking about the reactor on the trains (before, no one had been mentioning it much in public).

we had our doctoral seminar at the university. it was a relief to be doing something normal, and to see my sensei. i really respect his opinion, and he is of course an expert in disaster and recovery, and calm in the face of most anything. i asked if he would talk a little about what was going on, and he did. he showed us a japanese newspaper with a map with all the towns that were destroyed. there were so many. and many of them are along a very winding coastline–it will be hard to get to them to search for survivors. we talked about the disaster itself, how fast the tsunami had come–faster than the very good warning system that is in place. and about the japanese earthquake warning system. he had an idea to take a ship from the university, load it up with relief goods and volunteers, and sail to the affected area (this idea was later not approved, but i thought it was a pretty creative way to deal with the inability to access certain areas).

one of my colleagues from korea told us she was going back to korea for a few weeks. her mother, like mine, was worried about the situation in japan. her mother had already made several ticket reservations, which my friend had cancelled each time. but she had finally given in. i told my sensei that my mother also desperately wanted me to leave japan (go anywhere! hong kong, europe…etc.) and he said there was no reason i shouldn’t, i.e. no harm in going. this was the first time i started to consider it.

foreigners had started to leave tokyo in some numbers by this time. like me, i think that many had family who were scared what they were hearing in the international media. especially the lack of clarity about which part of japan was affected by the disaster and which part was safe. i certainly don’t think it’s any of my or anyone else’s business what any individual choose to do-to stay, leave tokyo, leave japan, etc. some countries started evacuating their residents, or recommending that people not travel to japan, or leave tokyo. it was a very confusing time for many, i believe, including me. and hard to know who to listen to.

on wednesday night, i taught an english lesson to my friends’ kids. i’ve been teaching them for several months now, and they are really fun kids, elementary school age, 2 girls and 1 little brother. their moms are friends too, and take turns inviting me to have dinner with them after each lesson.

the moms were both really worried, which shocked me. 1, that they were so much more worried than any other japanese people i had seen up until then, and 2, that they weren’t making much of an effort to hide this from their kids. they were saying quite directly that they were scared, that we don’t know what’s going to happen. one of them wanted her parents to come from tokyo to kobe, but they had refused, saying they wouldn’t leave the rest of their family behind. they were worried for their kids (radiation it much more dangerous for children). talking to them, i decided that for my mother’s sake i would try to leave japan for a bit.

i got home and discussed with my evacuee/guests, who had also heard quite alarming news from the german media (one of the most extreme, perhaps). we decided we would look for tickets in the morning. and i slept for a few fretful hours.


About liz

from the u.s., recently moved from kobe to sendai, japan, researching community-based housing recovery after disaster.


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