Japan: Nuclear Misinformation

This is Japan, in early May:

And this is also Japan, in late April:

This may be hitting the point a little over the head, but it’s worth making: the earthquake, tsunami, and accompanying nuclear crisis are all really big deals and do of course amount to a national crisis. But Japan is a big country, and hundreds of miles from the disaster zone, in places like Fukuoka, day-to-day life was and remains largely unaffected.

This is really hard for a lot of people to understand. While this is more understandable for Americans or others without a good working knowledge of the East Asia region, it’s less understandable for Koreans. Friends and family expressed both general concern about the ongoing situation in Japan and specific concern for my safety. One friend living in Seoul was told not to go out in the rain out of fear of radiation. Many relatives thought it was a bad idea for me to go to Japan, in spite of my insisting that it was perfectly safe, and in spite of any expression of concern from my dad, who is a nuclear engineer and probably knows a thing or two about the dangers of radiation.

Part of me wants to write this off as a “Korean thing.” Rumor and misinformation seems to hold special sway in that country (see also the “fan death” urban legend). But this sort of misreading, irrational fear. and distrust of Japanese official reports are hardly limited to the residents of South Korea. People worldwide have reacted similarly. Nevertheless, any rational investigation of the facts should lead anyone to the logical conclusion that there are large swaths of Japan that are perfectly safe to visit, and it is still disappointing that so many people are casting blanket assumptions on Japan because of the nuclear crisis. This hurts tourism, which hurts the Japanese economy.

So, in an effort to do my part to help with the Japanese recovery, I’d like to combat this misinformation with what little influence I wield on the internet.

Let me repeat, there are large swaths of Japan that are perfectly safe to visit. Do your research if you were planning on visiting but were having second thoughts. The Japanese economy needs all the help it can get through tourism, which has been hit badly in recent months.

It’s a nice place. You should check it out.