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The Tokai Nuclear Disaster This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This work has won the Teen Ink contest in its category.

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   Last year on anOctober evening in Japan, I enjoyed the rain as I walked slowly to my hostfamily's farm. After I yelled the customary "Tadaima" and removed myshoes, my host mother pulled out a heavy English dictionary. She searched for aword, then pointed excitedly. Above her finger I read "radiation" -Tokai nuclear power plant two miles away was experiencing a serious accident.Soon trucks driving by screamed warnings in Japanese to prepare for nucleardisaster. My body was numb.

I had been to Hiroshima the week before andall I could imagine were the grotesque pictures of dripping flesh. Photographsflashed in my head of the burnt remains of an ancient city. I remembered thefamous 1964 "Daisy Girl" commercial. It slowly played in my mind - ablond child holding a daisy, framed by a green-gray mushroom cloud. Myimagination forced me to expect the worst.

The air terrified me. I thoughtI was suffocating. In that moment I could not understand how my life had come tothis crucial moment. I had left my home for an opportunity to live in Japan andexperience the culture, and joined an exchange program in a small village by thesea. These events had led me to the only place in the world where a nucleardisaster was occurring. My choices had exposed me to the ultimate weapon of ourtime. The rice-paper windows and layers of silk robes provided little comfort asI waited for the radiation to subside. There was nothing I could do to protectmyself.

The world's issues no longer disappear when I close a schoolbook.On that autumn evening, I was suddenly part of one of the nemeses of the 20thcentury. My frightening experience was because of a criticality accident*.

When I decided to embrace a three-month adventure, I never expected totrade in theater and friends for a nuclear disaster. My eyes were pried open andI realized the world's issues are not separate from my American life. I realizedI had been educated to understand cause and effect and the cycles of history, buthad not incorporated that knowledge into a world view.

That eveningreached into my mind and opened a door to the realities of this world. The Tokaidisaster threatened my life, but it also demonstrated the possibility of anyperson on this planet experiencing the same shocking circumstances. In Japan,quarantined for days on a Buddhist farm, I could see no separation from othercultures. I realized I could no longer segregate America from other countries, myrace from other races, Oklahoma from Japan. Three days after the Tokai nucleardisaster I stepped out of the farmhouse into the fresh sunshine of a gloriousOriental garden and, over green tea, determined to commit myself to my newperception of the world as a whole. c



*Criticality accidentsinvolve a chain reaction caused by handling too-large amounts of enricheduranium. More than 600 people were exposed to radiation in the Tokai disaster,the largest in Japan's history.






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This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.

This work has won the Teen Ink contest in its category. This piece won the March 2001 Teen Ink Travel Contest.




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SafeleoThis teenager is a 'regular' and has contributed a lot of work, comments and/or forum posts, and has received many votes and high ratings over a long period of time. said...
Oct. 17, 2010 at 4:16 am:
You live in Japan too? Where? I'm in Iwakuni. (about an hour south of Hiroshima) I totaly agree with you. Look at my artical the Atomic Bomb. That museum in Hiroshima really made me think and question America's reasoning to drop such a distructive bomb. I don't think anyone diserves that, no matter what they did. Really good artical. Thanks for letting me know there's someone else here in the land of the Red Rising Sun.
 
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