My brother who works in Yokohama, Japan’s second largest city after the capital Tokyo is back in the Philippines temporarily with his wife and 5 month old baby. He and his small family are among the thousands of foreigners who left Japan after a radiation scare (and most recently, water scare) that gripped the north eastern part of the country and the capital following an earthquake and tsunami that happened last March 11.
His wife is not working so she will be staying in the Philippines with the baby indefinitely however, my brother is flying back to Tokyo to go back to work among the legions of Japanese colleagues often called ‘salarymen‘ – loyal Japanese employees whose lives revolve around the office, who regularly work overtime and who have strong, emotional ties to their corporations and their colleagues.
A society he feels he is now part of.
Upon his return, I am sure he will be coping a pinch of ostracism from his colleagues for flying out and leaving them to work during the crisis. But that he can handle.
Another challenge my brother would face is the constant prodding of my mother to NOT go back to Tokyo at all, to leave everything behind – their property, lifestyle, his career (that has finally taken off after being accepted in a huge multinational company in Yokohama). My mom says it’s not worth risking his life. Quakes can be tolerable although not less scary but radiation? Vegetables, milk and other produce found with traces of radiation? And the news that tap water is contaminated with radioactive substances now?
I personally thought my mom was over-reacting because I believe the government of Japan is doing everything to contain the situation and I am sure everything will settle in a few days. The over hyped foreign media is only making it worse. It’s not apocalyptic in Japan at all, not right now at least.
While exchanging words with her, I find myself defending my brother’s decision to go back to Japan as I know him well. My mother thought I was too insensitive to not convince him to not go back. But what can I really do? My brother at 32 has a mind of his own and he decides for himself. And he loves and believes in Japan like I do.
But radiation is something you can’t see! my mother screams. “You should forget everything in Japan and find work somewhere else!” She definitely has the Chernobyl disaster in her mind.
We ended our conversation hanging – my mom was in bed with exasperated breaths , I was upset when I reached my room. When I finally went to bed, I stared at the ceiling and thought, there was no need to argue with my mother. She was just a mom, feeling worried for one of her children. I am a mom too, I should have understood, I should have known better.
Tomorrow I’ll have her call my brother so they can talk. I really don’t need to be in the middle.