Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Tokyo Update: Foreigner Exodus and Panic. The Locals? "What Me Worry?"

Everyone seems to be running away from Tokyo. I'm not. I'm staying right here until 3/21 (then I must go see my very ill father). I feel sorry for those poor souls who lost lives and loved ones in Miyagi and near the earthquake zone. This blog post concerns where I live and that is Tokyo. I do not make light of those who have suffered. I am making light of this nonsense panic we are experiencing here in Tokyo. I see history being made and I will stay to report it as long as I can.

As I posted yesterday in, the Great Tokyo Food and Water Panic of 2011 Begins it has been reported that most stores' shelves have been cleaned out of food and water. Now, the situation takes am interesting turn; the foreigners - not the Japanese - seem to be in a full blown panic and are in a mass exodus out of Japan.    

The Star reports

Radiation fears spark evacuations in Tokyo after Japan quake

Panic swept Tokyo on Tuesday after a rise in radioactive levels around an earthquake-hit nuclear power plant north of the city, causing some to leave the capital and others to stock up on food and supplies.

Several embassies advised staff and citizens to leave affected areas, tourists cut short vacations and multinational companies either urged staff to leave or said they were considering plans to move outside Tokyo where low levels of radiation have been detected.

Tourists such as Christy Niver, of Egan, Minnesota, said they had had enough and were leaving. Her 10-year-old daughter, Lucy, was more emphatic. "I'm scared. I'm so scared I would rather be in the eye of a tornado," she said. "I want to leave."

The Czech Symphony Orchestra left Tokyo by bus for Ishikawa prefecture on the west coast.
"Some of them wanted to go home after the earthquake but it's pretty much impossible to get tickets for a hundred people now," said Hitomi Sakuma, a friend of the orchestra who was seeing them off at a Tokyo hotel.

U.S. banking giant Citigroup said it was keeping workers in Tokyo informed but there were no evacuation orders, said a spokesman, adding the bank was closely following guidance by the U.S. Embassy, which has not urged nationals to leave.

I can tell you from experience and from what I saw first hand was that the first ones to panic were the Europeans, specifically the Germans and the French. I gather that these good folks do not have earthquakes in their countries so that might be understandable. I suppose all these people freaked out because the idiots they have in their respective governments have helped to cause a panic.

Time reports:

There could be an exodus of foreign residents out of Tokyo, reports TIME's Lucy Birmingham, who is based in the city. The French Embassy on Sunday evening issued a website warning to its citizens recommending they leave the area of the Japanese capital for the next few days.
This highly unusual move came in response to an official announcement Sunday morning from Japan's Meteorological Agency stating there is a 70% chance of earthquake aftershocks with a magnitude of 7 could hit the Tokyo metropolitan area in the next three days and a 50% chance in the days following. 

The statement said: "Because of the risk of uncertainties of anything nuclear that could happen, it seems reasonable to recommend to all those not having any particular reason to stay in the Kanto area (Tokyo region) to remain away for a few days. We strongly recommend against travel to Japan at this time." 
The German embassy made a similar announcement, saying German residents in Japan should assess if their presence in the country is necessary. If not, they should consider leaving, especially families with small children. 

They issued a warning because we might have an earthquake? What the hell? This is Japan. We might have an earthquake every second of everyday. Those incompetent fools.

Just yesterday Lew Rockwell published an article I wrote concerning my serious criticism of how the government consistently mishandles these kinds of incidents. This irresponsible action by the French and the German government should be examined carefully by the people of those respective nations.

It's no wonder the German and French people panicked early. Here's an exchange I had with a German woman outside of my son's school when I went to pick him up on Friday, the day of the earthquake: 

Thirty minutes or so after the big shock ended, my wife and I drove the car to pick up our son from school. The cars were lined up for blocks near the school because the school had evacuated he children to the school sports field (an evacuation center) and wasn't allowing any of the children to leave until the 'all clear' was issued. 

I parked my car and began walking towards the school grounds. As I walked along, one of the student mothers, a wonderful mother from a European country, saw me and shouted out to me.  

From our conversation, I am assuming that this woman comes from a country that does not experience earthquakes as she was visibly shaken and seemed nearly in a panic. She acted as if the sky was falling and it was the end of the world as we know it. 

Let me recall the exact conversation for you: 

“Mike! Are you going to take your son home now?” She whimpered from her slightly down car window. 


With a very strained look of confusion on her face she added, “Don't you think it is safer to leave the kids here at school?” 

“No. Why?” 

“Because isn’t the school is safer than home?” She added. 

“I don't think so,” I added. For a moment the old English fairy tale about the Three Little Pigs and the Big Bad Wolf flashed in my head. I wondered what kind of shack she thought she lived in. I'm sure her home is quite safe.  

In exasperation she said, “But what should I do? We might have another earthquake!”

I replied, “Yes. This is true. We might have another earthquake. We could have another earthquake in the next minute or ten minutes or tonight or tomorrow or next week or next year... I don’t think you can live your life worrying about things like that.” “Anyway, I added, “I’ve come to pick up my son and take him home. I suggest that you do the same.”  

With that I said, “Goodbye” and went on my merry way. She remained in her car with an extremely pained and worried expression on her face. I have heard through the grapevine that this woman and her family have left Japan.

I report on this situation and recall this episode for you not to disrespect Europeans as I love those people. I only mention this as what I am about to tell you will come as quite a shock.

Next, next door to my house, there is construction going on building a brand new house in the neighborhood. Has the construction paused or slowed down today? Not in the least. The construction workers are still out there hammering away right at this very second.

It might be the coming of the Four Horsemen of Apocalypse but they have a deadline to meet! Come Hell or high water that house is going to be completed on time. This morning I asked two of them if they were going to stop working because of the nuclear accident and one guy laughed and the other looked at me as if I were crazy. 

A short while ago I spoke to a friend who has been out and about and he agreed with me that the foreigners have over reacted and are panicking. He told me that he asked several taxi drivers what they thought and they all shrugged their shoulders and said, "Daijyobu! Mondai nai." (It's okay. No problem).

By the way, in another interesting example, the schools for foreigners are all closed for a week... The Japanese elementary schools?  Open for business as usual.

I also posted earlier about how life goes on in Tokyo, see that and some great links here.

Earlier, I think I made a mistake and freaked people out because I mentioned that my family were going down in our basement for the day. It's not because we think the world is coming to and end, it's just because we think an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Because I wrote that on Facebook, I think people got the image of us running away from nuclear winter. That's not the case at all

Don't think our basement is a cold, gray dingy concrete box... It is not. It has everything and is quite comfortable. It actually is quite suitable as an apartment for two people. We have a bathroom and a shower and food and a stereo, tons of music, a computer, tables, chairs, etc... quite nice and comfy too... It doesn't have a TV but that's okay as I don't have a TV anywhere in my house either upstairs or downstairs.

So, why are all these people panicking? I think they watch too much TV. TV is brain damage. TV is a waste of time. TV is sensationalism. For evidence of that just think back to the panic about Swine Flu and SARS. They told us we were all going to die then too.

One only need look at the foreigners panicking and fleeing Japan to witness proof that what I say about TV is true.

Thanks to News on Japan, John Pender and Ira Hata


Marc Abela said...

Ah, finally. A bit of reason. It's never too late to learn the difference between "fear" and "danger". Hoping all is well. From Tokyo, Marc

Rusty Mason said...

Mike, thanks for reporting. It is interesting to hear about things over there.

I agree with you completely about TV -- it's total garbage. We cut our cable over a year and haven't missed it. But it was painful at first. There were several years of watching less and flipping more, followed by a couple of years of sitting for hours on the couch just flipping channels and staring into the pretty void. It was madness but we couldn't break free from the hypnotic stupidity. The flipping slimmed down to one hour, 30 minutes, 10, then zippo. Eventually we quit picking up the remote at all, except to watch a weekly MasterPiece Theater DVD from Netflix. We had the cable cut off so we no longer have to pay for that filth and propaganda. Now, my mind having cleared, I realize what a bunch of idiots we were whenever I see other people who have not even considered breaking their TV addiction; they are pathetic and unreachable. Fortunately, there are fewer of those zombies every day.

Stay well.

Rusty Mason said...

What's your position on government schooling? How are the Japanese schools? They must be better than ours, of course, but are they up to your standards? We homeschool and love it. We especially love helping other homeschoolers break free.

Mark Davis said...

Shea was telling me last night that he thought this would be a good opportunity for low air fares and lower hotel rates. It sounds like he may be right.

Anonymous said...

Most of these foreigners probably haven't lived in Japan for very long. Spend a year or more there and you'll experience quakes of various magnitudes on a pace of about at least once a month (that's conservative). So, you get used to it. Yes, this one was HUGE. So these people running scared are not used to earthquakes. They're the ones that piss their pants at even the smallest tremors. And true, the radiation thing ain't great but as Mike said, it'll blow away from Tokyo.

Anonymous said...

The lower the Japanese language ability of my fellow foreigners, the higher the panic level. The Japanese media has been quite timely, detailed, and accurate. Unlike the fear-mongering foreign networks available in Japan.
Twitter and Facebook have worked well from the start for communication, as very delays occured to the data networks, unlike the phone system overload / restrictions. Twitter and websites worked great, with instantaneous translation and updates. Of course, Twitter and Facebook have also been loaded with panic and misinformation.
Amongst the people I know in Tokyo, earthquakes seem like a lower concern than the nuclear bogeyman. The average understanding about basic physics and nuclear power plants have compounded this panic.
However, I succumbed to family pressure and moved to our other office in Osaka.
A friend of Mike

William said...

You're right! In my experience too the people I know who are leaving Tokyo or Japan are all French or German. They are surprised that I am staying! (I'm British, by the way. Not sure if that counts as European.) None of them are newbies, having lived here for many, many years each, but they are certainly panicking. Sure, we should be worried but running to the airport?

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