There are a myriad of thoughts as news broke and the ‘inconvenience’ this might cause to my holiday….its more than 250kms from Tokyo…very little damage in Tokyo…I wasn’t going to the affected area….I have spent a fair whack of money on this…
I also have taken a strong interest in the disaster management systems in Japan and was aware of very sophisticated warning systems for tsunamis and the like. I harboured a hope that warning did work and that casualties would be a minimum.
However, I got to see the news at the Mercure Hotel, and it looked bad. I found the power of nature demonstrated in the tsunami enthralling.
I chatted to a Japanese/Canadian guy at dinner who predicted that power problems in Tokyo will immediately affect transport and general business. He said that workers would be stuck in Tokyo (Friday night) and that food will be short – having been bought by stranded office workers.
Texts started coming in from family and friends. “Tony’s not going is he?” Veronica left the decision to me. At this stage I was comfortable with waiting till the morning.
Qantas staff were great in the unfolding drama at the airport. They put me up for the night at the Mercure Hotel nearby after I had said I could not get back home tonight. I got a single room, so Veronica stayed over with me.
I joined the line for the shuttle bus back to the airport. Qantas checked us in but would not confirm we would be leaving on time or at all.
Madeline sent me a text – “is it worth it just for a football game?” Well, as this blog title said before the disaster happened, is not just about the football. I did find out from a Sydney FC guy flying on the same plane that there was only a 20% chance of the game being on. (It was cancelled later in the day, as was a J-League football for a month).
Veronica’s eyes and tears said more than her words. I was aware that she would rather me not leave. However, in those hours on Saturday morning before the flight boarded I did consider the uncertainty my trip would bring family and friends.
Would I be trapped? Would I get to Tokyo and then be trapped by transport problems? I was going to be staying in Tokyo for 4 nights, and had intended to walk around most days. So transport problems were not a real barrier.
Would I be a burden to Japanese society by being there? To me this is a significant issue to consider. If power and resources are scarce for locals and those affected by the disaster, am I just one more mouth to feed? Yes, but relative tot he size of the population, miniscule.
Would I just be a disaster tourist – in reality or perception? In reality I was going to be going about 150kms north-east to Mito, which was affected by the earthquake by only minimally by the tsunami. But given the transport issues, Mito was off the agenda. Whether I was percieved as a disaster tourist, well thats for others to decide.
Risk of after shocks. Yes, a significant concern but one that would be shared by some 25 million others in Tokyo. In the previous 2 trips to Tokyo, Kyoto and other places the signs of potential disaster are everywhere. Active volcanoes, earthquakes, tsunamis, flooding, typhoons.
Travelling to Japan at anytime has an underlying level of risk of natural disaster. Is it an unreasonable risk? Probably not, and one that I am willing to accept.
In hindsight I must say I underestimated the extent of concern for my well-being, even if some aspects of that concern was misplaced by exaggerated reporting by Australian media in particular. It is comforting to realise that many people were genuinely interested in how I was getting on.
Back in Australia safe and sound, the ongoing problems with the Fukushima nuclear power plant strengthened the reasoning for returning home. Who knows how difficult it may have been by Sunday 20th to access and leave Narita Airport.
I have no regrets about firstly going over, and then coming back early. Sure, it was an expensive long weekend, but just money was lost and not my life. My experience needs to be put in to proper perspective with the (probably) 30,000 people who perished in the tsunami.
And I can get to Japan again if I want.
(Saturday 12th March, 2011)