I Love You, But I’ve Chosen Darkness

by industriousants

Time to start building.

 

I have to apologize. I really didn’t want to write anything about radiation today. I just finished telling my brother-in-law that I can’t let the only driving force behind my writing be the aftereffects of the tsunami. While I’m at it, the same goes for the maternity sections of this site. There must be more to my life than birthing babies and grand scale apocalyptic destruction, or so I would like to believe. Unfortunately, I think that is where my world is stuck at the moment. I suppose these days, being pregnant in Japan, I have no choice but to live an existence of extremes, caught somewhere in between these two polar events;
catastrophic wide scale death – ME – imminent life-giving birth
Both are terrifying in their own right, but so far I only have to experience one first hand, and thankfully it’s the good one.

In any case, there are a few things that have driven me back to the thing I wanted to avoid. Yesterday, the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency upgraded the severity of the nuclear disaster from a level 5 to a level 7, putting the Fukushima incident in the same category as Chernobyl. Does this come as a surprise to me? Not really. Am I worried? I suppose I should be, but strangely I’m not. An uncle wrote me and said we were ‘brave’ for sticking this thing out, but really I don’t think courage is what’s keeping us planted here. It’s more like a feeling of numbness, almost as if a general anesthetic has been applied to our fears of the threat, making it possible to ignore them for a period of time. Still, we’re not stupid. We’re aware of the damage and pain that still exists just under the skin. I suppose we are clinging to the hope that with each passing day the country is healing a little bit more and that we won’t need to cut ourselves away from it just yet.

I can tell that my family is still concerned about our decision to stay, but I am happy that they are doing their best to restrain their panic. It must not be easy for them. As sound-minded as they are, I know even they have their limits, and I can imagine them readying the straight jackets, secretly organizing an intervention to bring Matt and I home from the radioactive-denial we are living in. If possible, I would ask that they hold off for a little bit longer.

Unlike my generation, the cold war taught our parents effectively to react to nukes (albeit, the variety that drops from the sky) in a more tangible way. Ads for fallout shelters and grade school bomb-drills were a real part of their lives in the 50’s and 60’s. Perhaps the instinct to run to the bunker is still well embedded in their minds and is now being triggered into action. Of course, if that’s the case, I’m not sure how it is that most Japanese people can remain so standstill calm. After all, they’re the ones that actually had the bomb dropped on them. Twice.

To wrap up, I wanted to draw attention to two separate stories. I came across this article the other day about a Tokyo family that is taking refuge in Toronto for a little while until things settle down back home:
http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/story/2011/04/11/japan-family-toronto-refuge.html

It’s the first story I’ve read that covers the departure of nationals from the country, and I have to admit, it puzzled me. I’m not about to criticize anyone’s personal decision to leave if they feel that is what they want to do. It’s their family and their business. What irked me was the write-up itself. I’m not sure why the CBC chose, on the one month anniversary of the quake, to focus on a refugee family from a city that suffered little physical damage in comparison to the areas further north. This family is still intact, has not lost their home and still has functioning jobs and schools to return to. Obviously, the CBC wanted to draw attention to the Japanese reactions to the radiation issue, but could they not have found a lesser fortunate group of refugees in Canada, one who had actually lost their home or family or village or all of the above? It feels inappropriate that we should reach so far to pat ourselves on the back for helping a family that, according to the article, didn’t really need help in the first place. Then again, maybe I don’t know all the details and perhaps I am being too critical, but that was my very first impression, and when I reread the article today, my sentiments didn’t soften.

What frustrated me further about this piece were the comments that followed by other readers. People either took a positive position on Japanese asylum seekers to Canada, or a negative one, claiming that any day now the country would be overrun by millions of boat people. Both opinions show a general lack of understanding of the geography of the disaster situation and the cultural mindset of the Japanese people.

First of all, if they would only check the many reliable sources out there, they would see that areas outside the no-go zone are still very safe to breathe, eat and live in. Currently, there is still no sound reason for a mass exodus of people. Second, so far as I have gathered the last couple years living here, Japanese people don’t want to be Canadian. They want to be Japanese and most want to live and die in Japan. People here are proud of their nationality. If their country is broken, they are the type of people who want to be here to help fix it. On top of that there is a complex system of community, education and employment that is not easy to re-integrate into if you decide to leave on a long-term basis. It would take a whole other blog entry to talk about this-a very long one I might add-so I’ll leave it at that for now, but I tend to think that the family currently refuging in Toronto won’t be there for long. Their status within the Japanese system is even now at stake, which explains why the father is already back in Tokyo working and collecting his children’s homework. The invisible place one holds within the system here often takes precedence over all else, even over a few extra becquerel’s of radiation in your spinach.

Moving on, the second article is about a foreigner that decided to stay, even though she had a lot of good reasons to leave. It’s the article I wish the CBC had run instead of the one above. Please read it when you get the chance.
http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/nn20110407f1.html

Thanks for following up, regardless of the gloomy themes as of late. I will do my best to switch writing gears when the time is right.

April 13, 2011

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