Radiation Fears and Japan Travels


A few months prior to actually leaving for Japan, I was regretting that I told people that "I AM GOING TO JAPAN AND IT IS GOING TO BE EXCITING".

The view from the Shinkansen as I departed from Kansai International Airport. EXCITING. 

I don't know if it's because most people I know have a penchant for downing other people's enthusiasm, or if they are genuinely concerned. Well, some were genuinely concerned, the others were just statements like "Huh, you sure you want to go to Japan? You might become the Hulk when you come back".

I don't need to go to Japan to be the Hulk, I want to hulk-smash things when people make off-handed statements like that.

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Indeed, even without me bringing up that I was going to Japan, whenever Japan got brought up, this topic got brought up. Those who knew that I was going to Japan would then inform the rest that I was going to Japan, and then...

'What about the radiation? Aren't you afraid?'

They would then give me some radiation fear story, usually about some acquaintance of theirs ('my friend's cousin's wife's sister') going to Tokyo, then coming back to be diagnosed that DUE TO RADIATION POISONING, they can't give birth for the next *insert terrifying long amount of time here* years.

'You sure you still want to go?' 

They'd conclude, all 'concerned' and stuff.

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Why, my, I mean, I'd totally did not do any research on Japan and Fukushima, and I didn't know about the radiation fallout in FUKUSHIMA that has been going on since the 2011 earthquake/ tsunami/ nuclear reactor meltdown, oh man how scary, I will now proceed to CANCEL THE ONE TRIP I HAVE BEEN DREAMING ABOUT SINCE I FIRST STARTED MY JAPANESE CLASSES.

Especially Tokyo Disneyland and DisneySea. Have I mention my Disney addiction before? Not sure if I have. 

 I mean, my dream of being in Japan with my university mates, the one dream we've all been working towards since starting Japanese classes in 2010 (I wanted to study in Japan too, but there was no scholarship available for me as a Malaysian international student in an Australian university, plus there are no J.E.T. Programme teaching positions available for Malaysians, so I settled for a measly two-week trip to Japan in 2013 instead)?


Let's just destroy THAT precious dream, because of vague fears about radiation poisoning EVERYBODY in Japan and unfounded rumours of making women infertile just by being in Tokyo for a few days. What if it gets to me, when I am at most 287.1km away from the center of the radiation fallout in Fukushima, and Japan makes me infertile for the next ten years too?

Kyoto National Museum 

View near Fushimi Inari

Arashiyama area near the bamboo forest 

Also, Kyoto is about 522 km away from Fukushima, just FYI. 

Not that I really have plans to have kids at this point in my life, and there are already pre-existing conditions for my body that may make it hard to have kids, but yeah, 'OMG JAPAN! OMG RADIATION! OMG INFERTILITY! OMG WE ARE ALL GOING TO DIE!'

That's 'funny', because one of the Japanese fashion producers I follow on Instagram, who arguably lives in Tokyo for the majority of her life, just recently gave birth to a bouncing baby girl. I saw tons of babies and cute toddlers running around Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka, Kobe, and Himeji. Also, while not from Tokyo, one of my Japanese friends is heavily pregnant and about to give birth soon.

While I am not an expert on the topic of radiation, and how different human bodies may react to levels of radiation around them, I can safely say that no, the radiation is not making EVERY WOMAN infertile, and certainly not EVERYWHERE in Japan.

This is Taiyo Park in Himeji. Himeji is 613.3km away from Fukushima. 

One of my acquaintance, who is also going to Japan sometime in the next few months, told me that people also kept trying to convince her to NOT go to Japan. In fact, and the sentence that most infuriates me after hearing her story, is the fact that people actually told her,

'Well, don't say I didn't warn you.'

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Well. No shit. Thanks, but no thanks. It's not like IF I did get radiation poisoning I'd be all like "ABC WHY DIDN'T YOU WARN ME I BLAME YOU XYZ"still, but if it makes you feel superior saying that about my 'hazardous' choice to go to Japan, all power to you.

Here's the thing about me and my trip to Japan in from late October to mid-November. No one, I assure you, no one was more anxious about the radiation fallout from Fukushima affecting MY trip AND me than *I* was.

My heart sank every time I read articles on the water containing radiation seeping into the ground / released into the ocean, in the months and days leading up to my trip and even after my trip ("TEPCO, what are you doing?!?!"). I looked at daily updates on different websites, from travel advisories from different countries' websites to Japan-related news sites, to peoples' opinions on the whole radiation issue.

Most of the travel advisories said it was safe to travel to Japan, APART from the site surrounding Fukushima. It seemed, however, that when I said 'I'm going to Japan', or the topic of me going to Japan was brought up, people seemed to hear

"OMGOSH I am like, SO TOTALLY, going to go to Fukushima and DRINK ALL THE CONTAMINATED WATER EVERY DAY UNTIL I PASS OUT, LOLOLOL, like wouldn't that be funniest and I'd be the first to do it LMAO" 

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instead of just plain and simple, "I am going to visit Japan for two weeks - the areas I will be going to are Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka, Kobe, and Himeji, which are ALL far away from Fukushima." Heck, even Ipoh is closer to Kuala Lumpur than Fukushima from Tokyo.

People asking me to not consume too much seafood in Japan? A little weird when this is Japan, but I am okay with that, considering how I don't like raw food / seafood that much anyway.

My close relative asking me to not consume tap water? Um, okay, it was hard to avoid when I was in someone's home, but since it made them and me feel slightly better, for the most part during my trip I consumed mineral water from the mountains - Evian and Suntory (Evian is cheaper in Japan than in Malaysia @_@).

These are 'harmless', in the sense that, okay, you acknowledge that I KNOW I am going to Japan, where there is radiation fallout in a part of the country - you aren't stopping me because OBVIOUSLY IF I BOUGHT THE TICKET AFTER THE YEAR 2011 I PRETTY MUCH KNOW WHAT I SET MYSELF UP FOR, but you do hope that in little ways I can minimize radiation effects, if there are any, during my trip in Japan.

I can take that as legitimate concern, or at least, offering what they think is helpful advice.

What really gets my goat, however, is when people ask/ tell me things I really didn't ask for, like "aren't you afraid of radiation?", "what if you come back an X-man" (<- this will be pretty cool, actually), "my cousin's step-sister's blood-uncle's mistress went to Tokyo and came back infertile from the radiation", and so on.

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The person who said "don't say I didn't warn you" was lucky it was not me he/she said it to, or there might be physical altercation.

You're not giving me something that is based on scientific fact, you're not giving me a sentence that stems from concern, even if you think it sounds like it.

Do you think that I, Miss Very Paranoid, did not research the pros and cons of travelling to Japan thoroughly, and check almost daily whether the 'scary scary radiation' is spiking in the areas I visit before I actually went? I do not need your help in fear-mongering or doubting whether it is wise to visit Japan - I do that well enough myself, and yet, YET, Miss Very Paranoid still chose to go to Japan.

Guess what? I had a swell time, added a bunch of lovely memories to my lifespan, and I cried in the train station when I got onto the train to the airport, because *I* wanted to stay longer.

Am I afraid of 'radiation'? Of course I am. I certainly don't want to be exposed to radiation mutating my body's code more than I have/ want to.

Heck, I am also afraid of the crime rates in Malaysia. I live in fear of people breaking into my house, being mugged while I am walking on the streets, being followed when I am alone in a shopping mall's car park, being a victim of snatch theft, having my belongings pick-pocketed (which has happened before), being a victim of a reckless car driver, being dragged off and raped before being murdered...

In this life, we can be afraid of many things that may  harm and kill us, if not now, then further on in the future. Yet.

We're all going to die eventually. True? Yes.

I mean, I want to live long enough to become a popular writer, and be the novelist of at least 50 books in my lifetime. I want to rise through the ranks of earning power, and earn enough so that I can care for my parents and repay them for looking after me. I want to live long enough to see myself, against all odds, get married and maybe even have kids - or at least if no one wants to marry me, I'll live long enough to see myself  live in a beautiful house filled with cats and be THE crazy cat lady of a lifetime.

I try to prolong my life through means I know how to - eating healthily most of the time, drinking a lot of water, exercising, avoiding going out too much to minimize chances of being a victim of crime, not going to places where I know there is a high chance of crime and violence, and etc - but that doesn't mean that I neglect the quality of my life while I am at it.

Well, to be honest, I often feel that I am putting the quality of my life on the backpedal while I pursue the prolonging of my life the majority of the time i.e. the crime issue, staying at home when I really want to go out. My perception of crime levels around me is probably escalated, but not without good reason.

But I digress.

If you came here wanting to look for answers as to whether YOU should go to Japan, I'm sorry, I can't provide the answers for you. What YOU do, and what YOU decide, is a decision YOU alone make, based on research YOU should do.

I am not going to say, "Yes! Go to Japan because it is super safe in all aspects!", because it is not true. Anything can go wrong anywhere, if you're unlucky enough, regardless of radiation or not.

What I CAN say, however, is if Japan is important to you the way Japan is important to me (for personal reasons), if you feel that the quality of your life can improve even just visiting Japan despite radiation fears and fear-mongering, if you are fully informed on what is going on in Japan and still feel like going... then, why ever not?

I did not choose to overlook the radiation factor when I planned my trip to Japan - I took it in, mulled over it, and decided that I would regret it if I did not go. It wasn't as though I was heading to a war zone, to a place where the environment is hostile for women, to somewhere where I knew I would be in imminent danger should I choose to go.

It's Japan. I fell asleep on the Shinkansen on the way to Tokyo from Kyoto involuntarily, because I was too tired. I woke up anxious an hour and a half later since I was on my own for the trip, yet all my stuff  was still intact and in the same place I kept them.

The radiation factor is scary because its effects are as yet unknown, but if I am to fear that something would kill me if I went there, heck, I am in fear of being attacked more back home.

Whatever it is, to me, life is short regardless of what happens. Japan is worth it enough for me to overcome my fear of radiation, or at least worth it enough for a short-term trip that is FAR away from the epicenter of the radiation fallout. I certainly won't want to go anywhere near the nuclear plant, because I will be useless, and I salute the people who are working hard to contain the damage.

Heck, I wish I could stay up to a year or more just soaking in the culture, and be able to say that Japan was my home for a short while, like Australia was when I was studying in university.

I don't regret going to Japan - in fact, it was the best two weeks of the entirety of 2013, to be honest. I'm glad I saved up for it, I'm glad I didn't give in to fear-mongering and my own doubts, and I'm glad that I have been there this year, even though I did not have the opportunity to study or work there like I once wanted to.

My intention with this blog post is not to convince people to go/ not go to Japan. That is entirely up to your discretion.

My intention is to show that, despite people trying to bring my happiness of going to Japan down, and my own feelings of fears of what the unknown can do, I still had a great time in Japan that I am thankful for (or else 2013 would kind of suck).

So really. If you're one of those people who like to ask people going to Japan if they fear radiation, or tell horror stories about Japan, or ask them if they are REALLY sure if they want to go, or even worse, get on your high horse and say "Don't say I didn't warn you", you can save it.

Bonnie the cat from cat cafe Nyanny in Sannomiya also wants you to save it. 

Chances are, the person who is going to Japan is plenty aware of the issue (like me!), have thought about it lots and still are REALLY SURE that they choose to go, and won't go around blaming you if something bad happens down the line.

(Heck, who'd say if whatever happens would be linked to Japan, even? Tons of people have medical issues that promise bad news down the line, does that mean those people should kill themselves now before something bad happens?)

People who choose not to go to Japan can make their own personal choices about it, and not dampen the spirits of other people who choose to go. All you really need to say is, "Have fun and stay safe!", and everyone can be happy as they go through their daily lives. Heck, you might even get better souvenirs.

To all those who are about to go to Japan when reading this, or ARE in Japan, "Have fun and stay safe". If you've even entertained the thought of going to Japan, you already know you want to go. It's up to you to decide whether it is worth it or not. For me, it was.

What about you?

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