Trying to outrun radiation

Fearing radiation after the explosion at Fukushima nuclear reactor, people are flocking to far away areas believed to be safe.

    Tokyo is about as close to being a ghost town as it’s been since the subway sarin attack in 1995.

    Traffic through the city is sparse, store shelves are light on the basics and expats are leaving in droves, with several countries - such as Germany and France - advising their nationals to leave.

    The Japanese aren't leaving the country. They are, however, hedging their bets and moving as far as they can from the potential path of radioactive winds that might blow down from the exploding and burning nuclear plants in Fukushima.

    The trains leaving Tokyo to Osaka and Kyoto are packed, mostly with families with small children and elderly members.

    A train crew member on the way to Kyoto told me that trains heading to Tokyo are unusually empty, and the ones heading out are packed.

    In fact, most hotels in Osaka are full. Toshihiko Minobe, 37, an office worker from Tokyo, was on his way to Kyoto on Wednesday afternoon with his wife and toddler son because he was worried about dangerous levels of radiation reaching Tokyo.

    "I have been checking on the internet, and it said that the farther you are, the better," Minobe said.

    He said that he does not trust the government, but feels that "nobody knows what's coming to Tokyo".

    Meanwhile, Mitsue Terado, 35, said outright that she "did not believe the government" when it said that radiation levels were safe.

    She travelled to Osaka from Ibaraki prefecture, with her mother and three children, as her earthquake-affected home had no water.

    However, lack of water or aftershocks were not the primary compelling factors. It was the fear of radiation due to the explosion at Fukushima’s reactor No. 2 that drove her hundreds of kilometres south.

    Her partner had to stay back due to his job. “I am very worried about him," Terado said.

    Worse yet, she said he won't be able to join her.


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