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Prompted by radiation fears and power outages, many head south.
Drew Anderson, a Californian who has lived in Tokyo for three years, arrived in Osaka a few days ago without a definite plan. A graphic designer at a Tokyo-based video game company, Anderson said he left Tokyo when he heard about higher than normal levels of radiation at Tokyo’s Shinjuku train station, the world’s busiest railway station which serves more than 2 million passengers a day.
“I’m inclined not to believe the government,” he said, and added that Japan’s government had been slow to reveal complete information regarding radiation levels around Fukushima’s damaged nuclear power plants.
Anderson said many of his co-workers also left Tokyo, and took bullet trains to Osaka and other parts of Japan. Anderson finally found a room for a few nights when a friend he made through Mixi, the Japanese version of Facebook, offered him a place to stay.
Japanese families with children leave Tokyo
It’s not just foreign residents who have decided to leave Tokyo. Some Japanese families said they planned to stay in the Osaka area until things improve, mostly because they were worried about radiation affecting their children.
Yoko Takayama arrived in Kobe, a port town 20 miles from Osaka, late last week with her husband and 3-month-old baby. “They say babies are much more vulnerable to radiation,” Takayama said.
She and a group of her Tokyo friends — all mothers with young children or mothers-to-be — said they might rent a house in the area, so they could stay longer.
When she left Tokyo, Takayama said she saw huge crowds in stations and limited public transportation. “We don’t know what’s going to happen. There might be another huge earthquake in the Kanto region,” she said, referring to the area where Tokyo is located.
Also, a number of companies and non-profits in Tokyo temporarily closed for business or moved operations to Osaka. A group from a Tokyo-based non-profit set up a makeshift office in Osaka last week. They said power failures debilitated Tokyo's public transportation system, so people could barely get around the city.
“We were unable to continue our operations in Tokyo,” said Yuki Hirayama, one of the group’s coordinators. When phone lines went down in Tokyo, it was the last straw. However, Osaka proved a welcoming city, and the non-profit has successfully fundraised for earthquake relief efforts in front of Osaka station for several hours a day.
Monica Narang contributed reporting to this story.