(For the record, part 2)
There's a lot of talk around Tokyo these days about those who left in the panic of the first few days after the earthquake and those who decided to stay. The Japanese word for foreigner is "Gaijin" it literally means outside person. When the nuclear crisis first came to light there was a panic all around, both in the foreign community and amongst Japanese nationals as well. When faced with such great uncertainty that could very well be a life or death situation, many people decided to leave. Sadly, those in the foreign community who left Japan at that time have been dubbed as "Flyjin" or foreigners who fled. I'd like to note that it was not only foreigners who left. Many Japanese people arranged to stay with relatives in other areas of Japan as well.
Fear of the unknown, fear of just the possibilities and the worst case scenerio was enough for many people to pack up and leave. Some at extraordinary cost and sacrifice. Prices for tickets paid at the airline counters in Narita and Haneda airports were in some cases 10 times higher than usual. I heard of people paying $5000 for a single ticket in economy or $8000 in first class when that was all that was left for a one way ticket to the west coast of America. Usual prices for this time of year are less than $1000 for economy.
For the record, I don't blame any person who made the choice to leave. I seriously considered leaving as well. There were several days that I would wake up - after a relatively fitful and sleepless night - in a complete state of panic and want to leave. My husband was supportive of this decision, but wondered if it was really necessary. He was a great comfort and anchor to me in those horrible days. Even in those times of fear and doubt, when I thought of going home to America, there was never peace in the decision to leave. My children and I could have gone to my family in America (not for $8000 a piece though...) for the two weeks of spring break. It would have been a rushed and panicked visit and we would have been returning to Japan when the situation was still ongoing anyway. Without a doubt, my family and friends in the states absolutely wanted us to come home. We had offers for refuge from friends and family in other locations in Japan, New Zealand, Italy and China as well. We are so thankful for each and every offer we received. Thank you all!
Or we could stay, save our money and go home during summer holiday for a longer and more leisurely - definitely a more relaxed - visit instead. No matter how much my head wanted to get away and go home, in my heart there was no peace with that decision. The day finally came when I just told myself that we would stay. Until ordered out by the American Embassy we would stay. From that moment, there was peace in my heart. Over the next few days I thought a lot about this. Why? The only reason that fits, the only one that gives me this sense of peace, is that God wants me to be here.
A dear friend of mine and I were "talking" on FB when she so lovingly complimented my strength in the face of crisis. I didn't feel strong - I still don't. Here is what I replied, "A friend of mine and I were talking last night about what kind of witness would it be if we just left our Japanese friends and family. God calls us to represent Him in all places and situations. If I am to show that He is with us in the crises then I have to be here too. If ordered to leave we will, but for now I want to give His smile, His touch to the people around me. " It's absolutely not my strength that keeps me here.
Its not so easy to just pick up and leave your home, your job, your children's schools, your friends and family. All this when you don't honestly believe it is necessary. I don't blame anyone who left Tokyo or Japan during this time. I was there too, but just couldn't take that final step. I hope no one thinks less of those who left, or for that matter those who decided to stay.