Photo by Twicepix
At a 11 a.m. news conference on March 15, Yukio Edano – Japan’s superhuman chief cabinet secretary – avoided questions related to the risk of radiation reaching Tokyo. This was a sensible move as there really is no need to panic.
However, heading home from a news conference at the FCCJ yesterday had made me realize just how much of a daze I had been in for the last few days. Getting off the train at Osaki – no more than 2 km from my home – I had managed to get lost. The walk home took me an hour, which was enough time for me to reflect on the pressure I was feeling.
I am sure some of the feelings I have had over the last few days have mirrored those of many. Attempts to head north to cover the event had fallen through on a few occasions – my lack of a driving license has never annoyed me before – and along with my safety and comfort, this had led me to feel guilty and a little useless. The least I could do was stay in my hometown.
Arriving back at the house, I spoke to my wife about my detour, but conversation soon drifted to different types of radioactive particle, what damage they could do and how you could combat them. It was a last straw for me and after a heart to heart, we decided that packing our bags just in case was the sensible thing to do, if only to know that we could leave if we needed quickly to.
Then came Edano’s news conference, which painted a bleak situation, and we decided it may be time to leave. As one friend on Facebook explained: “Tokyo is usually a city of extreme convenience. Right now, things are inconvenient.” While that may be true, leaving was a doddle.
We booked Shinkansen tickets online at around noon, by 1 p.m. we were on the Shinkansen heading to Kyoto. By the time it left Shinagawa Station, the train was pretty much full, and one could not help but notice the huge number of young families on the train, obviously putting their children’s welfare first. There were also a lot of foreigners. At Nagoya, looking out of the train it was clear that there were non residents gathering in front of the station, perhaps heading to the airport, perhaps looking for hotels.
One Japanese passenger explained to me as we headed for Kyoto “I’m from the countryside outside the city and I’m heading back because my father told me to do so. He’s worried.” My parents’ worry was also a factor in my decision to leave.
We got off the train at Kyoto – booking by cell phone had been easy – and the air of calm in the city was tangible. I doubt Tokyo is in any danger, but I’m not a gambler, certainly not when the stakes are so high.