Only God Knows Why


Staying in Tokyo
March 16, 2011, 5:57 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

Hi Everybody,

 I dont usually use this blog to get information out to people I actually know, but I thought that I would just write a quick post to try and calm some of the fears that my decision to stay in Tokyo for the time being has created. 

I have decided to stay in Tokyo because this is the place that I feel the most comfortable, psychologically speaking, and given the initial terror, drawn out fear and indescribable sadness for those in North, that is something that is a great drawcard for me.  I have made a lot of friends here, and if I were to evacuated, given that I have no family in the country, I would most likely be by myself, a state that I have never really warmed too.  Considering I also have the new nuance of being terrified of being on the train (who knew I could get MORE highly strung) staying where I am is very favourable to me right now.

The following is an email from my brother, a Physics PHD candidate, that should help dispel some of the fear around me staying in Tokyo.

“As I understand it, the troubled power plants are quite some distance to the north of Tokyo (a hundred km or more) (ED: They are around 250kms away) , you shouldn’t be within range of any ‘direct’ exposure, even if the containment systems fail.

The only way you are going to get exposed to significant radiation is if 2 things occur together.

(1) The containment systems fail at the plant (IE. a full meltdown)
(2) The prevailing winds are blowing toward Tokyo and carry some light radioactive particles in that direction (The winds in the region are primarily westerlies at this time of year, carrying the particles out into the pacific, but sometimes there are othres which would blow particles toward Tokyo.

If these 2 things do occur, yes, being inside will make a substantial difference, because what you are trying to do is avoid the small radioactive particles from passing into your body (ie, inhaling them, getting them on your skin, eating them etc). So what you would want to achieve is to get inside and seal yourself off from the outside as much as possible (turn off air conditioning if you can as well as that often draws in outside air).

These are all big “If’s” right now, its not even clear if a full meltdown or a breach is going to occur. These are just things to keep in mind if the situation deteriorates further towards a worst case scenario.

As of right now, you will not have been exposed to any significant radiation, and the risk that you will be is very low. I read that story about ‘increased radiation’ in Tokyo. Yes, there was an increase over the normal amount by about 10 fold, but even at the highest it was still only 1/20 of the radiation you would get from a single X-ray. To put it in perspective, you would have got a far higher dose of radiation on the flight to Japan than you did from the hour or so when the radiation levels in Tokyo were raised. (Being at higher altitude exposes you to significantly more radiation from cosmic rays, long distance flights is how most average people get their highest radiation doses).

The media makes such a mess of this because they report every little thing that happens without putting it in perspective, making hard to figure out what stories are meaningful and which aren’t. 

A Nuclear Meltdown is a very serious event, but the distance from the plant, and your location relative to what are usually the prevailing weather conditions means that even in the worst case scenario the risk to you is very low.

You shouldn’t be too worried. Be alert, not alarmed, as Mr Howard would say (Ha!).

I am following the stories fairly closely, I’d let you know if I truly felt that you should get out of there. Is there still plenty of basic commodities (food, water etc) on the shelves in Tokyo?

 
My personal opinion is that if you are still comfortable to stay there, you should stay. You may get the opportunity to help a country in its darkest period, and from an existential perspective, this is a once in a lifetime event that you will experience directly. If the plants do in fact go into a full meltdown, you may want to reconsider that, but as of right now, I would really want to stay, if it were me.
 
In the Chernobyl accident, where the worst case actually happened, the subsequent cloud of particles was blown right over sweden, finland and norway and they were only a few hundred kilometres away. Still like your friend said, she turned out fine, (Ed: A friend from Finland wrote on my wall, saying that she was in Finland during the Chernobyl incident and that she was fine)  there may have been a small increase in the incidence of some cancers over a long period, but thats it. And thats for people who lived there for months/years. If that happened there, I’d be telling you to leave so that even if radioactive particles did begin passing through or falling on Tokyo, you’d be long gone before having accumulated enough dosage to cause damage.”
 
 
The mood in Tokyo currently is panicky, but it’s where Im most familiar with.  I haven’t been in Japan for long and this is the only place I’ve managed to put down comfortable roots.  I know the areas well.  My Japanese sucks, but I know people that can help me with that.  The familiarity calms me down.   If I were to evacuate, I would be alone and it would take a lot of preparation, mentally and physically.  I wouldn’t know where to go, how to get there etc.  If I come back to Australia, that would void my visa, and I would like to stay in Japan for the time I commited to, until next March.
 
I would like to stay here as a calming and stabilizing influence on a city in a tailspin.   Not that I have any overinflated idea of my own importance to Japan but I want to try and keep things as normal as possible, and hopefully, in the future, get the opportunity to help those worse affected in the north, something that is really important to me.  I guess I’m just trying to say that it feels right to try to stick to a routine, and help others do the same, as much as possible.
 
Although I have only lived here for 3 months, and I will only be here for 18 months total, I chose this place.  I chose Japan for it’s culture and its people.  It is my home, even if it’s just for a short time.  I have a lot of friends here, both foreigners and Japanese and I want to be here for them as much as possible.
 
The decision to stay or go is obviously a personal one that each person has to make when faced with such a disaster, and my decision is to stay for now.  As my friends and family, you have all taught me to trust myself, my intelligence and my instincts.  I don’t think it would come as any surprise to most of you to hear that my self confidence is something that I have struggled with.  But you have all told me enough times to rely on myself that I know that from the information I have gathered, my interpretation of it, and my feelings that I am making the right decision to stay for now.  Please don’t worry.  The people that really need your thoughts right now are those that have been completely devastated in the North.  The coverage here really is heartbreaking.  Please consider making a donation to the aid efforts if you have the means.
 
For those of you who are staying too, I have a spare room at my house if you get jack of the power cuts or train disruptions, I’m right on the Yamanote so I doubt my power will be cut and most places are in walking distance.  Please take care of yourselves.
 
Much love, Vicki x
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