Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Why I'm staying in Tokyo with my family....

Wednesday, March 16, 2011
Tokyo Japan
Jim Weisser
Meguro-ku, Tokyo

Dear Everyone,

I very much appreciate both the outpouring of concern and support from you, including the numerous offers of places to stay, sleep and so forth. For the record, though, I'm staying in Tokyo, as are the rest of my family. This choice is just for us, though, and I don't expect everyone to agree with it, or to make the same decision. For those of you in Tokyo, that is up to you and your family. If you are in Fukushima, evacuate please. 250 km or so is a material difference, and besides, I'd rather know that Tepco didn't have to worry about you.

I've posted separately on the earthquake, but suffice it to say it was scary. Following that, it went from scary to inconvenient when the trains were largely shut down, et cetera, and it remains at inconvenient now, with the power plants shut down and occasional blackouts in different parts of Tokyo. Business is slow at the moment, though our customers are largely up and running, and we are happy to support them.

Now, for why I'm not rushing out of Tokyo--reading only CNN or NPR (my default sources), I should have run for the hills, but being (originally at least) an engineer, I started looking for hard data. Here's what I found:

1) A really cool online geiger counter. Turns out that the baseline radiation we have been seeing during this excitement in Tokyo is less than San Francisco typically experiences.

2) Tokyo, so far, at peak, has received an equivalent dose of radiation to 1/50 or so of a chest x-ray, or eating a banana. In other words, no more risk than we receive in the course of everyday life.

3) Nuclear reactors and nuclear bombs have materially different designs. Nuclear reactors, to use a technical term, can't go "Kablooie" like nuclear bombs. I'll have more on this in a separate post, once I get more cool science terms, like "SCRAMMING". Pop quiz for the day: How many people died at the 3 mile island nuclear incident?

4) Polling the American companies in the room at the ACCJ board meeting, the vast majority were between "Business as usual" and "Business as usual with a little flex time".

5) Yes, many shelfs are kind of bare. There is definitely a self-fulfilling prophecy component to this kind of reaction--hard to get ramen, toilet paper or rice. Fortunately, we don't need any of these things in the immediate future.

More to come, and happy to have comments and questions,


  1. Thank you for a cool-headed opinion at least.
    I'm french and I'm staying in Tokyo with my family too and advice (although touching) from friends and family back in France urging me to leave the country are driving me crazy. Damn french media and french authorities for being so stupid!!
    Anyway I think the most important part of your post is "I started looking for hard data".
    More people should look a the data and stop panicking.

  2. I don't know that I've ever used the words "Keeping it Real" in written conversation, but that is, and remains, my goal. Glad to know that some of my French friends are remaining rational :-).

    The touching advice from back home is scarier than what most of us in Tokyo are dealing with.