Is it Safe to Go to Japan?
This was supposed to be our year to visit Japan. It’s a country that Jon has wanted to visit for a long time and I’m always up for anything – so we made it a priority.
For Christmas, without advanced planning, we gave each other Japan-related gifts: travel guides, bento boxes, Japanese cookbooks. While those have all gone to good use in the past 3 months, it’s unlikely, given the current events in Japan, that we will actually take that trip this year.
I thought this would be the response from all travelers right now. But when I got together with Pam from Nerd’s Eye View and Debbie from DeliciousBaby last week, Pam mentioned her dismay with friends who are leaving on their long-planned journey to Japan. Pam’s (rightly) concerned for their health and safety. And while they plan on traveling to the southern part of the country, they will have to fly through Tokyo and stay there for at least a couple of days.
Debbie pointed out that her travel list was so long that if a destination got bumped, there were plenty of other places to choose from. That’s what Jon and I believe. While we can easily deal with rolling blackouts, erratic train service and other inconveniences, the radiation threat is just a little more than I would want to take on. I’m concerned about the effects in Seattle, let alone Tokyo, and there are just too many other places to visit to risk heading into what could be a truly dangerous situation.
But not everyone agrees with this. In the U.S. State Department Travel Warning for Japan, the government has recommended that Americans within 50 miles of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant evacuate or seal themselves in their homes if they aren’t able to leave. At this time, there’s no suggestion that Americans defer travel to Japan or even Tokyo (where water, milk and some vegetables have tested positive for radiation).
Like Pam’s friends, there are those who believe that as long as they stay away from certain areas in Japan, they will be OK. And they could very well be right – though we may not be certain of that for another 20 or 30 years.
I’ve always been able to consider at a destination with more objectivity than what the media and government shove down my throat. Travel warnings tend to be issued for an entire country when an issue flares up in one small location. Perhaps it’s our collective ignorance of geography that keeps us away from Spain if there’s a bombing in one city or India if we hear of a train wreck in some small village.
But I suppose that the unknown of what’s happening in Japan has me sufficiently spooked. While the earthquake and tsunami damage was quite isolated and would not have kept me away from the country, the ongoing spread of radiation (which has now reached Massachusetts!) has me concerned. I’m also not confident in how truly accurate the information is that’s being shared by both the Japanese and U.S. governments. And I wonder what the U.S. travel warning would read if this had happened in Russia, Pakistan or some other country where our government wasn’t so sensitive to the relationship. I’m fairly confident it would be a far stronger warning to avoid travel to Japan.
What about you? Would you travel to Japan right now?