Post-Tohoku Earthquake Japan: Is It Safe For Tourists?

JR East’s POKEMON with YOU joyful trains get yet another makeover this July! This time, the cartoon trains feature only Pikachu, the main mascot of the anime series.
Radiation readings updated as of 1 December 2017.
radiation in japan

Images from JR East.

It’s been six years since the devastating Tohoku earthquake and tsunami and Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station meltdown. Is Japan safe for children, pregnant women, and tourists in general?

Often referred to as the Great East Japan Earthquake, the magnitude-9.1 Tohoku earthquake that struck Japan in 2011 is one the world’s most devastating natural disasters of all time. The strike killed 15,800 people, displaced thousands, and was followed by over 5,000 aftershocks. The tsunami (which resulted from the quake) inundated the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station, releasing dangerously high levels of radioactive materials.The reco very efforts are still a work in progress, and even today, a 20km exclusion zone remains around the plant. The level 7 nuclear meltdown has been an expensive mess to clear, too—over US$ 300 billion has been spent. As expected, this hit Japan’s tourism industry very hard as well.

Radiation in Japan

Image credit: Steven L. Herman [Public domain]

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Radiation Levels in Japan

Since the big clean up in 2011 to 2012, the radiation levels at the cities have remained at safe levels. But in February this year, Fukushima made headlines again when a robot probe found the levels within the power plant’s No.2 reactor hit 530 sieverts—some seven times the previous high of 73 sieverts. To put this in perspective, radiation doses are typically measured in microsieverts (one-thousandth of a sievert) and the reading in Singapore is 0.1 microsievert per hour (NEA, as of 1 Dec 2017, 4pm).

Understandably, this has shaken some tourists, giving rise to cases of trip cancellations and the likes.

Radiation in Japan

Fukushima Daichi Nuclear Power Station. (Fukushima, Japan)
Photo Credit: Tokyo Electric Power Co., TEPCO

Currently No Cause For Alarm

Thankfully, these concerning levels are contained in the disaster-hit site. According to Tokyo Electric Power Co (Tepco), the radiation has not leaked from the reactor, and thus will not affect those in the rest of Japan (the plant is a good 220km away from Tokyo). Additionally, the new recording was taken at the deepest spot within the reactor, explaining the significantly higher reading.

Here are the latest readings*:

Current reading
(microsievert (µSv)/hour)
* 1 Dec 2017
Distance from Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Plant (km)
Hokkaido (Sapporo)
Tokyo (Shinjuku)
Fukushima city
* public areas
For reference, Singapore’s reading is 0.1 microsievert per hour (as of 1 Dec 2017, 4pm).

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Currently, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) has not issued any travel advisory. However, if you have planned a trip to Japan, you are encouraged to register your travels with MFA in the case of any emergency.

So don’t let this stop you from visiting Japan!

Radiation in Japan

Here are the top 5 myths about radiation, debunked:

1.       The food in Japan is contaminated with radiation!

No, the food is safe to consume. Since 2012, Japan has set a new safety standard for the food sold within and exported out of the country. It is prohibited to circulate food detected with radiation above the standard.

2.       The tap water in Japan is contaminated with radiation!

Likewise, the Japanese authorities have upped their monitoring of the radioactivity levels in the tap water. The Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare in Japan monitors the aqueduct regularly and has verified that it is safe for consumption.

3.       The hot springs (onsen) are contaminated with radiation!

The onsen have been certified safe for public use. Do note, however, that some onsen sites have radiation levels that are naturally higher than average. They remain in the safe range, and are unlikely to have anything to do with the nuclear disaster.

4.       Radiation is contagious!

You cannot contract any radiation-related symptoms or illnesses from being in contact with someone else who is affected. You will need to be exposed to a harmful radiation dose to be affected.

5.       Japan is unsafe for pregnant women!

There have been no confirmed studies to suggest that the current levels of radiation in Japan will have any adverse effects on expecting mothers. Risks of permanent infertility only come into play if one is exposed to 2,500 to 6,000 microsieverts of radiation per year.

Pokemon With You, JR EAST Train – An Effort To Bring Smiles To Tohoku

Radiation in Japan

Image credit: Mutimaro, CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

The Japan Rail (JR) trains get a makeover with their Joyful Trains series. The Pokemon With You train is part of this fun series, and covers the Tohoku region. Made for the children living in and visiting Tohoku, it is furnished with Pokemon seats, toys, many interactive games and activities. Think giant Snorlax and Wailmer plushies, and fun board games.

Radiation in Japan

Image credit: Google Street Maps

Tickets for this train are sold separately from the JR EAST Tohoku Pass, and can only be purchased in Japan. You can get your tickets from the JR EAST Travel Service Centers with your JR EAST Tohoku Pass.

Disclaimer: This article is intended solely to provide reader with general tips and guidance for personal use. For the latest updates on the travel advisories and more, please check the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) and the National Environment Agency (NEA).
*Readings for Japan taken from Japan National Tourism Organization (JNTO). Readings for Singapore taken from National Environment Agency (NEA).

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