Sunday, March 20, 2011

Change of Scenery

I'm not even sure how to describe the last week. First we heard about the earthquake. An 8.9?! Then the tsunami. Then the news about the damaged nuclear reactors began to reach us. Little by little a bad situation became worse and then it got about as bad as it could get. Nuclear meltdown? Here? Really?

Okay -not here. We're down near Osaka which is still very far away from Tokyo and even farther away from the Fukushima power plant. The likelihood of our experiencing any nuclear radiation here is pretty slim. But. It's there and in light of the incredibly vague information provided by the power company and government in the early days of this crisis, combined with the sensationalized media in the U.S., my family and friend and I were worried. Gboy is admitting now that he was worried, but for the past week and half has been "stoically" Japanese reassuring me that nothing bad would happen and that we could safely stay.

Still, by Thursday night I'd had enough of sitting around waiting for Fukushima Dai-ichi to get a handle on the situation with the reactors - no power to them, no way to cool them successfully - after nearly a week it felt ridiculous to sit around and hope that things would suddenly resolve. Furthermore, by that point, the U.S. State Department had officially stated that their position would be to "encourage Americans to consider leaving Japan" - not Tokyo, but JAPAN.

Gboy finally agreed that perhaps a vacation somewhere else might not be a bad idea at least for a couple of weeks. It's spring break for Peanut now. "Why not go to Hawaii?" he said. We've talked about it for years. Even came close to going once upon a time almost 5 years ago (ahem - that would have been our honeymoon). But for a variety of reasons we never made it there. I'm trying to envision this as the honeymoon we never had, albeit with a preschooler and infant in tow this time. And naturally the price isn't what we would have liked. Going last minute is never ideal. But I figure you can't put a price on your health - not really. We'll be free from the threat of radiation from Dai-ichi for a couple of weeks and already my family is breathing easier.

In an interesting contrast, my mother-in-law is embarrassed to tell anyone that we're leaving. It's bad form to flee this crisis apparently. Also, the American government (and me by extension I suppose) is over-reacting by Japanese standards.

But I can't stay here right now. *I* need some room to breathe. All of this "suck it up" and "gaman" (perseverance basically) is wonderful on the one hand. On the other, it's downright silly if you ask me. Why more people aren't asking questions "Why did it take so long for the nuclear plant to hook up the electricity to the cooling pumps last week?" "Why is the government unable to provide food, blankets and aid to survivors of the quake/tsunami?" These kinds of questions seem like no-brainers to me. But I know that questioning authority is not how the Japanese do things. My husband describes his experience of school here and how frustrated he was when he didn't understand a concept. He'd ask the teacher the questions that would gain him understanding while every other student in the class sat there mutely; many of them would thank him after the fact because his questioning had enabled them to learn as well. *sigh* I'm not saying that the American way of schooling and questioning authority is better. It's just different and in these kinds of situations it seems that some questions need to be asked.

Anyway, I'm hoping that getting a little distance while give us the fresh start that we need. Right now our plan is to return here in early April, in time for Peanut to start yochien again. I'm really looking forward to a fresh start.


  1. A trip to Hawaii! Awesome!

    The reasons for it not so much of course.

    Have fun!

  2. Good for you! And Hawaii sounds lovely. I'm not a fan of needless panic, but I think I would want to leave, too.


  3. I think a change of scenery sounds like a good idea. I'm not an over panicker (that's my husband's job.) However, I think a certain amount of conern is in order. My father is a senior reactor operator for a nuclear power plant where we live. Your reactors are sisters to ours in style and such. So, I've asked your questions, and I know your answers. Helps to have an insider. I think part of the reason for being forthcoming is because they are "too damn busy." As my father said, they are working and they need every hand me available on deck. However, as there was a lull in activity, there are people whose duty it is to inform the public. Also, my father's answers were complicated. So, to give the general public an answer, they may not be satisified with it. It's hard to understand, but that's not to say it couldn't be done. We have some minor updates that probably weren't done in Japan. However, the entire industry is learning from this situation. The new power plants are better designed. I just hope the backlash isn't too severe on nuclear power. With each new plant it gets safer. Email me if you have specific questions.

    Enjoy your break!

  4. Oh, I think it's good to get away and glad that you are able to!