I have not made a current events blog or vlog for a while but after the continuous posting of this story and having had received comments and messages regarding the current state of Okinawa as a result of this story I could not help myself.
Before I get into the story itself let’s go back to March 11 2011. For those of you who are not already familiar this was the date when a huge earthquake shoot the northern part of Japan and resulted in a devastating tsunami. The tsunami then resulted in a nuclear disaster in an area known as Fukushima. Many people lost their lives as a result of the horrible disaster and radiation concerns caused many people to leave their homes in the area. Many other people in the surrounding areas also became concerned and decided to relocate as a precaution. These people relocated to various areas throughout the country to include the southern islands of Okinawa. Again, this started in 2011 after the disaster.
Now fast forward to December 2012. The AP (which was the first place I saw the story released although I am also aware that The Japan Times also released it as well) releases a story which it titled “Radiation-averse evacuees flock to Okinawa”. The article, which pictured a young mother and her beautiful son, goes on explaining about how Okinawa is as far south from Fukushima as you can get and explains about how the prefecture is offering financial assistance to those who have relocated on the island. More information is included such as quotes from the mother and other important details that will be disregarded by many of the readers.
As I have been living here for as long as I have and keeping up with the news as I do there was not much thought that I invested into the story. Most of what was said was pretty much old news aside from the fact that those who applied for aide by a certain date got another year of assistance from the Okinawa Prefecture. Among others, however, this seemed to be big news. In fact a viewer over on my YouTube channel even went so far as to hound me for not covering the “real story” about what is happening in Okinawa. I took a few weeks to think about what it was that I wanted to say if I wanted to take on the story at all. Now here I am. You’re about to read the “real story” of what has been happening here in Okinawa. **Spoiler Alert** you’re going to be disappointed.
First and foremost, as mentioned in the articles, Okinawa is the furthest away from Fukushima as you can get without leaving the country. Couple that with the fact that Okinawa does not have nuclear power and is a very popular vacation destination, then it doesn’t seem difficult to understand why some would choose the location to relocate here. The question is how many people are, as the article says “flocking” to Okinawa? According to the article in question “more than 1,000 people”. Now what I find interesting about this statement is the the lack of timeframe given during which these people have come down to Okinawa. Common sense and knowledge of the local news tells me that they are referring to the number of people who have come down since 2011 when the disaster first occurred but for the sake of being through I did some research to see what I could come up with. Turns out that they are in fact talking about the total people since 2011. In fact in an article released by The Asahi Shimbun in November of 2012 it was stated that “About 700 Fukushima evacuees still live on Okinawa Prefecture”. If we bring this full circle 1000 people moving down to Okinawa over the course of what is about to be 2 years isn’t much of a “flock” is it?
It’s also important to understand that a number of people who relocated to Okinawa chose to relocate here. There was never a time where planes full of people from the Fukushima area simply dumped them at the Naha International Airport with nothing but the clothes on their backs and nowhere to go. Some stayed with families and friends and others undoubtably stayed at the many hotels on the island until they could sort out the aid that was available to them from the Okinawa Prefecture. Does this mean that there were no people who came down here without a plan? No. But it is a misconception that people just magically appeared here hopeless and afraid.
Now, when it comes to the “real story” as to how life has been effected here in Okinawa by these evacuees the answer is simply. . . not at all. There have been no shortages or lack of resources and no overwhelming swarms of evacuees roaming the streets with nowhere to go. Again the number of people who have come down here is relatively insignificant on an island with a population of 1,400,000 people (give or take) not to mention the tourists. The aquarium alone gets about 2.5 million visitors a year. This is not to say that there is absolutely no effect on Okinawa. Certainly the financial assistance that the prefecture if offering will have an effect on the prefecture itself. However, when it comes to the matter of every day life there has been no change or at very least the change has been incredibly minimal.
As I said it’s disappointing isn’t it? Most stories are when they are not embellished or when important details which offer context to the story are taken out. Funny how leaving a few words out like “since 2011” can turn a flock into a trickle. Unfortunately that’s the nature of the news when things are slow; drudge up what you can to make a headline.