Late afternoon

afternoon sun, stitching, teaToday I have been quiet under the kotatsu. I stitched up a hankerchief and played with the idea of a new spring sashiko kit. The sun shone brightly and Tanaka-san went out for a ride. She, too, has been quiet so I was happy to see her in the sunshine, wheeled away in a bright purple hat but with her face to the sky.

As the late afternoon sun dwindles from my apartment I think about where I was two years ago when the Tohoku earthquake hit Japan. That leads me to think about where I was five years ago, and then 10. Life changes suddenly sometimes.

My heart aches, so as the afternoon sun dwindles I sit quietly on the tatami and I stitch.

Tough Decisions

At a time when many in Japan are suffering — without basic necessities, missing loved ones, under constant threat of more disaster — it seems silly to talk about my worries.  I fear that talking about them will somehow trivialize the tragedy that has occurred.

At the moment, Tokyo is not in any danger.  That being said, Dan and I have a difficult decision ahead, one many ex-pats currently face: do we stay or do we leave?

Right now, my heart belongs to Japan.  Tokyo has finally started to feel like my home.  We have been here for 9 months, and though I’m a somewhat transient lady, this is where I prefer to hang my hat.

I know I am incredibly lucky — I am an American and have confidence that my embassy would help if there was an emergency.  I have friends in many countries, and Dan has a solid job with a company with resources. I do not feel I would ever be stranded or forgotten. I know how extremely lucky I am because I had the resources to move to Japan in the first place.

But, we have the opportunity to take a little break from Japan for a while.  Do we stay or do we go?  As the situation at the power plant becomes more threatening it becomes easier to make the argument to leave.  But at this point Tokyo is not in danger.  And Tokyo is my home.

Some foreigners have been criticized for leaving, criticized for inducing panic or abandoning Japan in her time of need.  What can I do to contribute if I were to stay?  I can donate money, but otherwise I must sit and wait.

Leaving Japan is a personal decision and no one should be judged for doing so.  Whether for the safety of your kids or the sanity of your nerves, taking a break from the drama shouldn’t be viewed negatively.  Alternatively, no one should be criticized or harassed for wanting to stay.  News coverage in the United States has been more sensationalized than here in Japan, and frantic calls from abroad help no one.  We are aware of the severity of the situation, thankyouverymuch.  I’m a smart lady with smart resources, and can make the right decision.  Most importantly, it is the right decision because it is my own decision.

So then why is it so hard to choose, and why do I feel so bad?

It might be guilt, or adrenaline withdrawal, after being so close to a disaster and narrowly missing its wrath.  It might be the solidarity I feel with my new friends in Tokyo and the life I have here, a solidarity I feel I’d be abandoning.

And so, we’ve decided to leave.  It is sad to go, but it is a short trip and it feels like the right thing to do at the moment.  Hopefully my absence from Tokyo can help conserve energy, resources… anxiety.  There are difficult times ahead for Japan, and I’m in it for the long-haul.  Even if I’m not for the short.

You can see my other reactions to the Tohoku Earthquake here and here.