I imagine it's been on the news in America as well, but Sunday was the one-year anniversary of the 2011 Tohoku Earthquake, a 9.0 quake and the strongest earthquake to ever hit Japan in recorded history. The earthquake caused a 133-foot tsunami that ravaged the country and killed countless innocents. In addition, the tsunami caused three meltdowns at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, irradiating everything within at least a 10 kilometer radius. In the end, an estimated 15,854 people lost their lives, and many others were injured or are still missing.
I had bought a ticket to visit my girlfriend in Japan, and was planning to leave on the 14th of March. I came home from a goodbye party and saw my father watching the news. I spent the next several days trying to contact all of my friends in Japan and sift through the disinformation that filled American airwaves. I am glad to say that all of the people I know in Japan escaped unscathed.
At that time, I had no idea I would be working in Japan. It was a while later that I was offered an interview for a position teaching abroad. I learned that many foreign teachers had fled the country at the news of radiation, and companies were desperate to replace them. I won't lie and say my motives were purely charitable; I was looking for a steady paycheck and an opportunity to return to the country that had given me so much.
I made sure to thoroughly research the region before making any decision. I waded through sensationalism to find hard, accurate facts about the location I'd been offered. My parent company gave me assurances that I would not be anywhere near the irradiated area. Eventually, I accepted their offer and moved to Japan. I didn't come here for fun. My first and foremost goal was to work and earn money. Having a new English teacher showed the students that foreigners weren't afraid to return to Japan. In a way, it made them feel safer, knowing there were people who voluntarily came to Fukushima. I care for my students very much, and I've always tried to give them a feeling of comfort whenever they bring up things like radiation.
Now I'm going home, but it has absolutely nothing to do with the earthquake or radiation. I am returning to America to fulfill my desire to excel as a filmmaker, something I cannot do here in Japan. One year after the earthquake, information and resources regarding the disaster are more trustworthy and reliable. I hope that foreigners will continue to come to Fukushima and realize that it is not some sort of irradiated wasteland. I also hope people will continue to remember those lost in the quake, and that the anniversary of this tragic event will remind people that nuclear resources must be managed and monitored with the utmost care, to prevent future accidents.