‘Flyjin’ demonstrated a reality

Tokyo

There is an old rule about judging people by their actions: Don’t generalize. Generalizing may allow you to sound funny at first, but on second take, you may appear completely off the mark. Consider Emmanuelle Bodin (subject of the Jan. 16 article “Frenchwoman fired for leaving Japan during 3/11 nuclear crisis sues NHK“), about whom Shigure Tatsushige (Jan. 20 letter) generalizes.

First, Bodin did not ditch her family. She left for a short time with her two daughters.

Second, her employer, NHK, did not fall apart because she left. She let them know, and someone was there to substitute for her.

Third, she was following the advice of her embassy; she was not acting on a whim.

Tatsushige, for reasons we don’t know, got personal messages from the Australian embassy and chose not to follow its advice to evacuate. Good for him. We don’t mind, because there is something stronger than anything else in the world, and that’s the freedom to act after evaluating the risks to oneself. Every person must make his or her own decisions according to perceived risks. This very personal decision is nobody else’s business.

For more than a week, the Japanese government itself was wondering whether to begin evacuating Tokyo or not. The prime minister at the time, Naoto Kan, lost sleep over this frightening dilemma. Tatsushige, on the other hand, might not have changed his sleeping patterns at all, but, again, we don’t mind as Tatsushige is free to choose the life he wants.

People in Japan were very, very lucky that the winds took most of the radioactive plumes into the Pacific Ocean instead of pushing them toward Tokyo. Does Tatsushige realize that he would have become a real burden to Japan if Tokyo had been evacuated?

Bodin, being a European and a French citizen, is very knowledgeable about the Chernobyl nuclear tragedy (1986). She is a highly educated person, well aware of the terrible toll of a nuclear accident. The Japanese public, on the other hand, showed incredible ignorance. Illogical reactions of denial by so many people as well as criminal lies by politicians and the nuclear village contributed to a feeling of powerlessness, despair and horror among many Europeans here.

The “flyjin,” as they’re called, showed Japan something fundamental: Nothing can help you here in a nuclear emergency. Nothing was in place to save lives. There was no way to evacuate millions and millions of citizens in danger. If and when this happens again, will the country be ready? Will Tatsushige be ready?

janick magne
tokyo

The opinions expressed in this letter to the editor are the writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect the policies of The Japan Times.

  • Ron NJ

    Note the lack of “flyjin”-style reporting as Japanese fled Thailand in droves during the flooding in late 2011. Bit of a double-standard, that – foreigners should stay in Japan and “show solidarity” with the Japanese in the face of a nuclear disaster, but Japanese have no such obligations themselves when living abroad, apparently.