Japan is certainly facing the most difficult time it has faced since WWII - the 9.0 earthquake and aftershocks, tsunami destruction and a nuclear catastrophe at the Fukushima Nuclear Plant. The world is worried and concerned about Japan and its people. Countries are worried about their citizens in Japan, companies are worried about their employees in Japan, universities are worried about their exchange students in Japan and parents are worried about their children in Japan. This is all very reasonable and right. As of today 90 international exchange students from my university have decided (or have had it decided for them) that they are going home.
I am not in any position to critique such a decision. Better safe than sorry. I am not a fan of nuclear power and I severely question the actions of governments and nuclear power companies in times of crisis. Still one needs to be cautious about reacting to information that is not accurate. The international media is making the nuclear situation sensational to say the least. Headlines and teasers are misleading and many people don't bother to read details buried deep in the story.
Perhaps the greatest disservice to everyone living in Japan has been the foreign press 'mis'-reports in their attempt to present 'Breaking News' which in turn have inflamed home country families to an emotional level that they bombard many of us living here with calls of GET OUT! RUN! ESCAPE! (Nakamura post on EASIANTH listserv, March 21, 2011)
Japan is suffering from cultural orientalism and geographic orientalism. People need to look at a map. Japan is not as small as is being reported. Not all of Japan is at risk in this crisis. I came across this Twitter post from tomoakiyama that puts things in perspective:
Distance between Three Mile Island & NYC: 100 miles / Between Fukushima Nuclear Plant & Tokyo: 150 miles. Stay calm pple.
The distance between Fukushima and Osaka is 350 miles.
Do the research and make up your own mind. Don't be blinded by sensationalism and biases in the media and governments...
And so while we can worry and debate about the safety of Osaka and Japan, in areas not directly effected by the earthquake and tsunami, life generally goes on. This isn't an act of ignoring the problems or of defiance or indifference. It is real life. Over 3000 students graduated from my university on Saturday. They have worked hard and we are proud of their accomplishments. A moment of silence was held during the ceremonies and a student group collected donations for the recent earthquake in New Zealand and the earthquake and tsunami in the Tohoku region of Japan.
For more information about the student group (in Japanese):
Now for the pictures of the celebrating students, student groups and family members:
The Center for International Education at my university is advising students to monitor these web sites for more information:
International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)
World Health Organization (WHO)
Here are a couple of links to stories from the BBC:
Here is some information from the Ministry of Internal Affairs in English especially for foreigners:
Regarding volunteer efforts, see the Tokyo Voluntary Action Center website:
Related: "Why I’m not fleeing Japan" at Washington Post.com
Related: "With Crises, Universities Worry About Students Abroad" at NY Times.com