Japan and a parent’s nightmare

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My brother who works in Yokohama, Japan’s second largest city after the capital Tokyo is back in the Philippines temporarily with his wife and 5 month old baby. He and his small family are among the thousands of foreigners who left Japan after a radiation scare (and most recently, water scare) that gripped the north eastern part of the country and the capital following an earthquake and tsunami that happened last March 11.

His wife is not working so she will be staying in the Philippines with the baby indefinitely however, my brother is flying back to Tokyo to go back to work  among the legions of  Japanese colleagues often called ‘salarymen‘ – loyal Japanese employees whose lives revolve around the office, who regularly work overtime and who have strong, emotional ties to their corporations and their colleagues.

A society he feels he is now part of.

Upon his return, I am sure he will be coping a pinch of ostracism from his colleagues for flying out and leaving them to work during the crisis. But that he can handle.

Another challenge my brother would face is the constant prodding of my mother to NOT go back to Tokyo at all, to leave everything behind – their property, lifestyle, his career (that has finally taken off after being accepted in a huge multinational company in Yokohama). My mom says it’s not worth risking his life. Quakes can be tolerable although not less scary but radiation? Vegetables, milk and other produce found with traces of radiation? And the news that tap water is contaminated with radioactive substances now?

I personally thought my mom was over-reacting because I believe the government of Japan is doing everything to contain the situation and I am sure everything will settle in a few days. The over hyped foreign media is only making it worse. It’s not apocalyptic in Japan at all, not right now at least.

While exchanging words with her, I find myself defending my brother’s decision to go back to Japan as I know him well. My mother thought I was too insensitive to not convince him to not go back. But what can I really do? My brother at 32 has a mind of his own and he decides for himself. And he loves and believes in Japan like I do.

But radiation is something you can’t see! my mother screams. “You should forget everything in Japan and find work somewhere else!” She definitely has the Chernobyl disaster in her mind.

We ended our conversation hanging – my mom was in bed with exasperated breaths , I was upset when I reached my room. When I finally went to bed, I stared at the ceiling and thought, there was no need to argue with my mother. She was just a mom, feeling worried for one of her children. I am a mom too, I should have understood, I should have known better.

Tomorrow I’ll have her call my brother so they can talk. I really don’t need to be in the middle.

13 thoughts on “Japan and a parent’s nightmare

  1. Oh Grace, that is so hard! Radiation is a scary thing that you don’t know about until it’s too late. But he is an adult and has the right to make up his own mind. I just hope he will be okay in the end! 🙂


  2. The thing about radiation is it moves faster than people. I would advise ALL my friends to stay out until the nuclear crisis is resolved, but then I can’t really advise them ALL to leave their jobs. It is tough! I hope they all, including your brother, find the balance (the risk and the job) and let them decide for themselves.

    I hope your brother takes precautions and stays safe, alert and ready.


  3. Oh it is difficult. You know Amanda works for Takada Intl. which is based in Tokyo. She won’t be going there for a while, but eventually she will get on a plane and fly off over there. And I will have to let her go. No it’s not easy. It seems just the other day she was Pristine’s age.


    • I guess we moms are always torn – we want only the best for our children and we do it our way, at least until they grow old enough to have minds of their own and we can only sigh and wish them the best.

      My mom’s prayers at night are always long and deep, for her 6 children scattered around the globe.


  4. I got hit by the end part!

    I too trust Japan so much and sometimes, I feel a lot are over-reacting, but then, yes, she is a mom. Wearing the shoes that she’s wearing can change everything!


    • Thanks. I know it would be difficult for my brother to leave his family behind but also difficult for him to stay with them without a job. I feel so sorry for them but I hope all will work for the best.


  5. Wow you are so insightful.Your last paragraph rings so true for many of us who have arguements with our moms. Your brother is in a tough situation but he was right to get his family out for now until things settle.


    • Hello, thank you for your comment. Our kids are small but when they grow older I guess we’ll have the same dilemma – we wanting what’s best for them and they, having another thing on their minds!


  6. What a really difficult decision for your brother to have to make. I cannot imagine how hard it must be for him to leave his wife and baby. Plus it must be scary for him also to return to Japan, not knowing what is happening there.
    Please know that I will continue to pray for your family.


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