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Japan: Life Decisions in the Face of Radiation Fear

Fearing long-term health effects of radiation from the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, some residents in mainland Japan have made the decision to uproot their families and move to other prefectures or countries. Actual numbers are unclear and multiple reasons factor in on these life decisions, but these moves differ in nature from the more reactive evacuations that occurred in the following weeks of the initial disasters.

Blogger Taku Nakajima was one of those who decided to stay. He articulated his thoughts in a post titled I want to be able to respect those who made a different decision (自分と違う決断をした人に敬意を持てるようになれたらいいな) [jp], calling for a more logical understanding of the nuanced undercurrents of our emotional struggles.

Note: This blog post was translated in its entirety with permission from the blogger.

Moving boxes by Flickr user bao_bao (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Moving boxes by Flickr user bao_bao (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Let’s say that a friend moved away due to fear of radiation while I stayed, and we ran into each other twenty years down the line. If my family wasn’t facing any health hazards, it means I had “won”. I would probably feel superior and say something like, “It must have been so difficult for you, then!”. On the other hand, if any of my loved ones were sick, that would be “losing”. I'd most likely spend time thinking about this excuse and that. Either way, it’s a sad situation.

Even though our decisions ended up taking us down different roads, both were very difficult choices made after much deliberation. I want us to genuinely rejoice in our reunion and say to each other, “That was such a difficult time but I’m so happy that we both did our best.” I want to be somebody who can respect others that chose a different path. Right now, I can only imagine my future self stoically holding back any real emotions and giving lip service. Somehow, I want to be in a place where I can be positive about both of our situations, in either of the possible cases.

Him moving away causes my fear of radiation to grow twofold. Of course, there is no reason for me to be afraid – I have very high information literacy and I believe the information from my research to be accurate. Still, no matter how absurd and ignorant I think my friend is being, his was a life changing decision that required overcoming multiple risks. Just the fact that there’s someone like that close by is quite shocking, and I abhor him for causing this distress in me. And, this emotion will cause a dark shadow to fall upon us, when we meet again in the future.

I believe I am a person that can push down that animosity and act in a gentlemanly way – unless something extreme happens – but that doesn’t mean I can stop myself from hating and worrying. Why is it necessary to have such thoughts when others interpret situations differently? Is it useful in any way?

The question should be this – has each of us done our very best with what we know at that point? I want to communicate my understanding of the situation to my friend, as reference, before he moves away. I also want to listen carefully to what he has to say. I want to do my very best in that. And, if that leads to different actions… well, that would have been based on whatever decision we both thought best. Isn’t that all we can hope for?

Whatever action my friend takes, some bit of fear in me existed from the beginning. That can’t be helped but his moving away shouldn’t be increasing my fear. I want to do away with that added negativity. I certainly don’t want it to be aimed towards him. That’s the kind of person that I want to be.

Low level radiation is a really subtle issue. Moving is an all or nothing discussion but there are a lot of disparities in how to interpret things, such as what to do for foodstuff. Each of these decisions that must be made in daily life create complex chasms.

Even if it looks like your worries increased because someone made a different decision, that anxiety was probably inside you from the start, so we shouldn’t blame them. Of course, if someone believes something that is obviously incorrect, we should tell them. If all of us were more conscious of the fear that we carry inside of us, it will make for better communication all around.

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