When the news started reporting that there was a nuclear accident at the Fukushima plant, I started getting calls from teachers I knew. I used to be a recruiter and manager at an English school and these were teachers who worked there. They all had basically two questions – “What is going on?” and “Should we get out of here!?”
Both of those were tough to answer. The best I could do was to say that things looked really bad and if you’re worried, you should go home. Then, they usually asked me the third question – “What are you going to do?”
I chose to stay. I could’ve gone back to the US but I didn’t. Why not? After all, I’ve got two young children. Isn’t it crazy to stay here and expose them to radiation poisoning so that they turn into little Godzillalets?
Basically, I stayed because I didn’t want to leave. I don’t want to leave, ever. I like it here in Japan. So, I decided to wait until things looked like they were utterly horrible, then as a last resort, I was going to leave.
Recently, I came across a news story. It said that Japanologist Donald Keene would retire from Columbia University and move to Japan, where he would seek Japanese citizenship. Keene is one of the world’s leading experts on Japanese literature and has translated, among others, the works of Basho. That’s where I knew him from. He said that the earthquake and nuclear meltdown that followed made him realize that he wanted to “be with Japan.”
Keene also criticized those who left, including baseball players and foreign companies that relocated. He said that this is a time to show one’s faith in Japan and its people.
I wouldn’t blame anyone for leaving. After all, nobody knew how bad things might get. Besides that, many non-Japanese aren’t that connected to life here in Japan. If you’re an English teacher looking to spend a few years enjoying Japan and then go home, now was the time to do so. There were also those who found it difficult to leave and those who came back two weeks after the disaster to resume their lives here.
The moron media actually coined the term “fly-jin.” That’s a take-off on the term 外人 (gaijin – foreigner). They basically ridiculed those who left, which is just plain stupid. As if Japanese people living abroad wouldn’t come home in the event of a nuclear meltdown! Admittedly, the Japanese media was underreporting how screwed the situation was, so probably lots of Japanese folks didn’t know. Meanwhile, we non-Japanese were checking foreign news sources which were not pulling any punches on how serious it was.
But anyway, I was moved to hear about Donald Keene’s decision, even though I don’t agree with his criticism of those who left. The decision to leave or stay is a personal one. But like Donald Keene, I want to “be with Japan” and I’m glad I toughed it out.
And when I go to apply for my permanent resident visa, I’m going to just write on the form, “I stayed.” If that doesn’t do it, I don’t know what will.