I have to think that the group overseas is starting to overdo it.
“Radiation” is becoming the code word for any kind of anxiety that people feel about Japan right now. If Susan Sontag were still alive, she might do a short story on radiation as metaphor. I think that people’s apprehension about Japan has more to do with the uncertainty of hooking up with Japan–in any context–then it does with how many theoretical X-rays you might be getting if you live in downtown Tokyo. Or, whether your onigiri at the Seven Eleven is going to have the salmon that ate the Cesium particle on its way before the fisherman’s catch.
The March disasters have caused people to be much more open about their concern of any sort of relationship to Japan. I think the actual, physical disasters are allegory for the emotional, human damage that can come from trusting “Japan” as an entity. (Point worth noting: the problem is not trusting Japanese–they are very trustworthy. It’s the trust going into various institutions in Japan, which is its own story.)
If it were me as a 20-year old, I would not trust going to Japan right now. You probably could have the time of your life, but the risk you’d run is that you’d come to think that Japan is easier than it really is. Then, when things get back to some semblance of normal in Tokyo in 2013 or 2014, they will be more than happy to see your rear end back on a plane to your home country.
So you spend the time and money in Tokyo, and feel like a real hero because the “radiation” is not making your hair fall out, but you really haven’t thought about the long-term Japan plan. The runners of Japan have, though, believe it or not. They have thought about how nice it will be for them to use you for a while as an international student. And, then, put your ass on the plane. (No international career job in Tokyo. Never mind the promises out of Temple Japan.)
What amazes me is that most schools—including many Pennsylvania schools—set up Study Abroad partnerships with the various Japanese colleges. I remember seeing something about Penn State and the University of Tokyo Komaba Campus when I lived in that neighborhood. I think our local college has something with Nihon University. It does not require multi-millions (as per the Temple Form 990) being flushed into dark holes in order to get Japan experience and learn about the country.
As the questions start getting asked in these parts (finally), you can bet that Temple Japan is going to keep making the geiger counter argument. But it isn’t that. It’s that having an American university sitting in downtown Tokyo is not part of the runners of Japan’s ideas. Not unless Pennsylvania has to indirectly subsidize it, year after year, through the Commonwealth appropriation.
Temple Japan is radioactive, but not for the reasons it thinks.