OSAKA – Tokyo residents who fled the capital for the Kansai region last week over fears of radiation leaking from the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant were returning home as another week started — but with plenty of headaches.
Worries about more aftershocks or another big temblor, long-term effects of even slight rises in radiation levels, and the thought of getting through the summer with limited or no air conditioning due to continued rolling blackouts had some wondering if they might be back in Kansai soon.
At JR Shin-Osaka Station on Monday and Tuesday morning, large numbers of people with backpacks and suitcases were seen getting on Tokyo-bound bullet trains.
Last week, Kyoto, Osaka and Kobe hotels were jammed with Tokyoites and people from the Tohoku region who evacuated in the wake of the quake, tsunami and damaged nuclear plant.
Several said they were uneasy returning home, but their lives were in Tokyo and they were not yet prepared to move away permanently.
“Our jobs are in Tokyo and both of us need to return. We took some time off, but I really can’t stay away much longer,” said Susumu Ono, 46, a Tokyo resident who with his wife stayed with friends in Kobe. “We’re not thinking of relocating to the Kansai region, although if my company decides to send people down, I’ll probably volunteer.”
While some said their Kansai trip was for the three-day holiday weekend and had planned to return to Tokyo anyway, others said they had fled to Kansai last week but were going home because they felt the situation had become safer.
“Some of our friends who were staying in Osaka returned home last night. Our friends and relatives all want us to come back. I think the danger of high radiation levels affecting Tokyo seems to have passed,” said Miki Inagaki, 31, of Chiba Prefecture, traveling with her husband Toshio, 32.
Although the radiation panic appears to be much less than it was late last week, the destruction wrought by the quake and tsunami, as well concerns in Tokyo about what life will be like in the coming weeks and months, had some, especially foreign residents, saying they’ll think seriously about their future.
“The thought of having to live in Kanto this summer without air conditioning, or with greatly reduced air conditioning, due to continued rolling blackouts and the pressure to conserve electricity is not something I want to think about,” said Dennis Simard, a Canadian English teacher who lives in Yokohama and works in Tokyo.