There’s something about radiation that scares the reason out of otherwise sober, rational people. Fear of the unknown is what it boils down to. What, after all, does the average person know about radiation? Three things: it’s invisible, odorless and deadly.
The radiation horror unfolding in Fukushima Prefecture has claimed some unexpected victims, Shukan Asahi (April 8) finds. They are Japanese abroad – people who were, of course, as far away from the Tokyo Electric Power Company’s stricken reactor as were the locals now regarding them with suspicion sometimes bordering on terror.
A certain “A-ko,” for instance, is a 31-year-old woman teaching Japanese in Siem Reap. She’s engaged to marry a Cambodian – or was. Now, it seems, the marriage is off.
“There are all these wild rumors flying around,” she says. “Having sex with a Japanese can get you irradiated. Japanese women will give birth to deformed babies. Everyone believes them. I was here [when the March 11 tsunami devastated the nuclear power plant], but that doesn’t seem to make a difference to people. My boyfriend’s parents are insisting he break off with me.”
A Japanese woman living in Bangkok says the hospital where she works as an interpreter is overwhelmed by Japan-bound Thais asking for iodine pills. No, they’re not going to Fukushima – more likely to Kansai or Kyushu. No matter – they want protection anyway. To that extent has “Japan” become synonymous with “radiation.”
A Japanese tour group was enjoying a holiday in Scotland. At their hotel in Edinburgh they presented JCB credit cards. No dice, said the desk clerk; we don’t accept those. The guests were nonplussed, as was the travel agency guide with them. He had never had such a problem before. He demanded an explanation, and got one: With a swath of Japan reduced to radioactive wasteland, “We don’t know where the Japanese economy is going from here. We can’t afford to trust Japanese credit cards.”
Is this a global outbreak of “discrimination against Japanese?” asks Shukan Asahi. Probably not. Everybody sympathizes with disaster victims, and Japan’s in particular, with their much-admired “stoicism,” have won hearts, assistance and contributions from individuals, organizations and governments worldwide. But at the same time, there seems to be a natural tendency, impervious alike to reason and innate compassion, to fear that disaster is contagious. “You almost feel you have to apologize for being Japanese,” says the magazine.© Japan Today