Monday, March 11, 2013

Come Visit Us

Two years ago today, the triple disaster of 3/11 hit Tohoku, the northeastern region of Japan, killing almost 19,000 people and displacing over 300,000. 160,000 are still unsure if they will ever be able to return to their homes on the northeastern coast.

Tohoku and Japan in general is trying to recover from 3/11, but it will take years for the economy to fully come back. What's not helping is the ignorance I frequently see online in English about Japan, which can scare people into not visiting.

A good example is an online photo I saw of a kimono-wearing girl wearing a cold mask in Tokyo (which is over 120 miles from the disaster site, as a note): someone in the comments actually wondered if it was because of fear of radioactive fallout two years later. People wear cold masks all the time in the winter here if they have a cold, are trying not to get a cold, or even if they're just suffering from hayfever. It's considered polite. It has nothing to do with radiation.

As for me, I live in Tohoku. I love Tohoku. Please come visit us. Please come to Japan period. Please don't listen to the ignorant online comments about how people are glowing in the dark or how the whole country is radioactive. Outside of a very small area on the coast (12 miles), Japan is safe. It would be like not going to any place in America because of a problem in Boston. Here's the official travel advisory, updated just a few days ago.

I am not Japanese, but having lived in Sendai and now Akita, Tohoku is one of my favorite places in the world. Please take a moment today to send your thoughts, a prayer, or a donation to the victims still suffering.

And please don't let rumors and misinformation keep you from ever visiting. Japan can be a really amazing place, and Tohoku people are some of the friendliest you'll ever meet.

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