Torontonian leaves Tokyo for safety of Hong Kong - wonders when he'll go back
Canadian journalist C. James Dale continues his fine reporting/blogging from Asia in this report from Hong Kong, where he landed the other day after finally making the decision to leave his home in Tokyo. He and his wife are staying with friends in Hong Kong.
After clocking eleven hours of sleep from Friday until Tuesday, an eight-hour slumber felt like an unearned extravagance. Breakfast was spent checking the news, checking on friends in Japan, and giving technical advice to a colleague who was about to interview survivors of Hiroshima's atomic bombing (they, like many Japanese, are experiencing this nuclear emergency on a deeper social level, given that their country is the only nation in the world to have lived through a nuclear attack).
Even when my wife and I headed out to get some groceries for our hosts here in Hong Kong, we couldn't escape what was happening in our second home. We bumped into Chris Yates, a Toronto native who has been living in Tokyo for more than a decade. He and his wife had been watching this story unfold, wondering if things would get better or worse. The decision to leave happened quickly.
"I woke up in the morning and knew we had to go, so we booked a flight for that afternoon," he said.
They're now staying with his brother and are supposed to return to Tokyo on Sunday. But as with so many things related to this complicated crisis, there's a sense of uncertainty.
"I lived there 11 years and I don't know when we're going to go back," he said sadly.
Chris is one of many ex-pats who have fled Japan reluctantly. But there are many more who have chosen to stay, like David P., who wrote to me saying he was surprised to hear I’d left.
"There is no danger whatsoever here, nor was there yesterday. I was really disgusted by the way ignorant users of social media whipped up hysteria," he said. "The panic and hysteria is more dangerous than the actual threat in Tokyo."
Perhaps there’s some truth to that. But what I’ve told David, Chris, and several others these past 24 hours, one's reasons for getting out of (possible) harm's way are varied, complex, and ultimately personal. When we’re faced with threats both natural and unnatural, we should support and respect a person’s need to do what feels right for them.
Having said that, I’ve been actively pressuring a friend who has stayed behind in Tokyo to come join us in Hong Kong. She won’t leave because she fears she’ll lose her job, and as a journalist she is driven to cover the story, but she wants to get away, at least for a weekend.
“I am starting to get physically affected from the emotional turmoil of having to continuously present news about devastation, death tolls and problems at the nuclear plant so close to home,” she wrote, while at the same time noting that many Japanese are far worse off. Instead of coming here, she’s heading to Kobe for the weekend.
My wife and I have been worrying about work too, but another companion from Tokyo is trying to cheer us up.
"Please don't even think about your job,” Sarah Krull wrote from Berlin. “Health and safety are more important."
I told you Sarah’s story in this blog a few days ago. She left for Germany earlier this week and had a painful parting with her fiancé, Masa, who felt an obligation to stay with his parents. But now that things have changed in Japan, he’s decided to head to Europe to be with his future wife. I don’t imagine they’re debating whether his decision is being driven by panic, hysteria, or good sense. They just know they want to be together during these trying times.