How did they abandon Japanese community? A trail of migrants from 2011 radioactive contamination

Ryota Wakamatsu

MA student, Social Policy, The University of Melbourne

Abstract

The Great East Japan Earthquake and the Fukushima Nuclear Accident struck Japan in 2011, and many areas of Eastern Japan have suffered radioactive contamination. Consequently, it is estimated that several million people voluntarily fled from their home, and some of them migrated to other countries. Nevertheless, the actual state of their large-scale migration has not been clarified adequately. How are those migrants characterised? How did they abandon their community in Japan?  This research seeks to address these questions based on interviews with 39 respondents who moved to Australia, Malaysia, New Zealand, Germany, and Indonesia. The analysis shows that the majority of them faced serious health problems that they had not experienced before the disaster and the great deal of agony amplified their fear about radioactivity. They also faced frequent conflicts with Japanese community that was unsympathetic toward their countermeasures against the contamination. Thus, both physical pain and disappointment at Japanese community determined their emigration. These findings indicate that there was “community failure” which forced restrictions on those who made different decision from others. Therefore, tolerance toward diversity is crucial when community is confronted with disaster.