I have had a few emails from people voicing their concern for my safety as Korea is so close to Japan and the tsunami/nuclear crisis they are working through at present. I, much like everyone back home, have been closely following the news. I want to reassure everyone that I am quite safe and Korea has felt no effects from this tragic disaster.
Consequently, a good friend of mine works has close personal ties to Japan, but she also happens to work in the study abroad office at Whitman college. Part of her current duties there are to keep up with the disaster and keep concerned parents of exchange students in Japan up to date on the latest information. I'm finding it hard to know what is sensationalist media and what is accurate at times, so I sent her a questioning email, and this was her response:
"Hey! I'm really glad that you got in touch to ask about this. The past several days I've basically had to talk a bunch of parents down from panicking about evacuating their kids from Kyoto, but at the same time have had to get some plans in place should we actually have to get them out of the country. Kyoto was completely unaffected by the earthquake and tsunami, and continues to be unaffected (for now) by the nuclear situation. I'm completely glad to help, since I've been glued to the nytimes website and NHK news nonstop, and have learned more about nuclear reactors than I ever cared to know.
I just remembered that you said that you would meet up with Katie in Tokyo, right? In that case, I would be much more cautious about travel plans... although Kojiro and I still have friends and family there who are safe and calm, there have been constant aftershocks, some issues with shortages of food staples in grocery stores (though not as severe as the media would have us believe), and then there's the worry about radiation (although Tokyo is also unaffected at this point). The nice thing is that since you weren't planning on going until late April, you have a little bit of time to wait and see what happens. For me, it feels like it's been going on forever, but I have to stop and remind myself that it's been less than a week. So I would just recommend monitoring the situation for another week or so (and please, please, please feel free to get in touch with me again, since I'll be watching the situation closely anyway) before you make any decisions. Our travel agent also says that in times where an emergency is declared, airlines will sometimes refund or waive fees for canceling or changing flights, so you and katie could always try and change your itineraries to take a trip somewhere else (though I know that you were really looking forward to visiting Japan).
I've also been really annoyed with some of the sensationalist headlines that have been coming up, even on the nytimes (i.e. comparing the disaster to chernobyl and using terms like "meltdown" when the actual content of the articles just detail further containment strategies and scary, but non-catastrophic, releases of radiation). It's hard not to panic a little bit just seeing the headlines change all the time, but here are a couple of places that I think are worth checking:
Alerts/messages from the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo: http://www.facebook.com/l/54affmPGroY--tTAIkY1AwjwbdA/japan.usembassy.gov/e/acs/tacs-arch.html
NHK (Japan's national broadcasting channel) news in English: (seems to have the most up to date, and measured information available)http://www.facebook.com/l/54affBcKnIYgLYoiE30XIPnK1hw/guides.library.umass.edu/content.php?pid=196478&sid=1645175
I hope that helps! Kojiro is still fine (haha, very calm... and much calmer than me!), so is his family, and our friends in Tokyo. We've been incredibly lucky that this disaster hasn't affected us personally, but of course, the unfolding nuclear situation is always a worry.
Take care and stay in touch!"
That's all for now, but I'll leave you with one more informative but light video that another friend posted about the situation with the nuclear plant: