It was the largest earthquake in recorded Japanese history
and one of the country’s worst disasters. And you were here for it. Just let that sink in for a little bit.
Perhaps you’re no longer in Tokyo or Japan. A lot of the foreigners in Tokyo, some of my
friends included, have left the city or the country altogether. It was a tough choice for
everyone, although not everyone was free to choose. Some were forced to go back by
embassies, universities, etc., and some had no choice but to stay; not being able to afford
the ticket or miss work.
I happened to be fortunate enough to have a choice. I certainly wasn’t looking forward to
the ticket charges and the transportation stampede, but I still I came very close to leaving on
more than one occasion. Embassy warnings, friends taking off, frightening news stories,
and continuing aftershocks almost put me on the next train or plane outta here.
Ultimately though, I decided to stay, despite what my friends did, what my family said,
and what the news claimed. Why? I suppose part of it was simply getting used to it all.
After a while, I just got a bit numb to the onslaught of news and warnings and
aftershocks. Admittedly, the situation at the nuclear plant was frightening, but a bit of
research showed that the 30km radius was enough for even the worst case scenario. In
fact, even for the Chernobyl disaster, a 30km radius was sufficient for safety, with most
of the effects beyond that coming from children unknowingly consuming contaminated
food and water. In this case, there is no cover-up―the government of Japan and other
governments and respectable organizations are clear on the risk levels and how safe the
food and water is on a day-to-day basis. The trick is finding sources that give the right
balance of proper information; ones that don’t underplay the dangers but don’t
sensationalize them either. I found a few I trust, and I decided that it was safe enough
Does that make you feel any better? Maybe, maybe not. Or maybe at this point, whether
or not you want to be here, you’re just used to it all now. Of course, having classes
delayed for month is a new situation for everyone. However, that doesn’t mean you
should hole up in your place and feel sorry for yourself for sticking around (or being
stuck in) Tokyo.
Look on the bright side; you now have a lot of free time in one of the greatest cities in
the world, and during its best time of the year. The weather is starting to become perfect
and the famous cherry blossom trees are in bloom. You can go out to explore the city and
enjoy the scenery. Even if your friends have left, head to a park and take in the spectacle
of Hanami. Who knows, chances are you’ll get invited to have a seat on the vinyl and
join the revealers. Volunteering is also a great way to put the focus on others and feel
good about yourself at the same time. Don’t head up north, of course. There are places
right here in Tokyo that are either acting as shelters or are doing activities for those
stricken by the tsunami. One of them is Oxfam Japan IVG, a great charity group
consisting of both international and Japanese volunteers. They’ll be holding a fun event
on April 9th called the Yamathon, with 100% of the proceeds going to Oxfam Japan’s
efforts to support the tsunami victims. Registration ends this week, so check it out!
Also, come by the ICC, where we will still be having events for students new and old, international and local.
Check out the list and start meeting other Waseda students here in Tokyo now. Drop in, we’ll be waiting for you!
JM (ICC Staff)