I am finding it increasingly hard to find any consolation and reason to stay in Tokyo anymore.

Out of the five new part-time workers at the restaurant, two of them have left Japan, and two others have evacuated. I was the only part-time staff left. I understand how my boss feels stressed about the lack of workers, but I myself feel really pressurized not to leave too. I wanted to stay and help out with the restaurant, and more importantly the rescue efforts at the affected regions, but it seemed that the situation has not stabilized sufficiently to allow volunteers in.

With the suspected meltdown of the nuclear plants in Fukushima, and the winds blowing the contaminated air towards Tokyo, there have been reports (some claim that they are plain rumours) that the radioactivity of the air in Tokyo has increased by 20 times. Paranoia is filling the minds of everyone, and indifference in others. Nobody knows what to believe anymore.

The business at the restaurant yesterday was so bad that I could count the number of customers who came; and I did. We served a total of 19 customers (not groups of, but numbers) at lunch and 21 customers for dinner. The whole atmosphere was really gloomy with the streets roamed by only a few people.

On the brighter side, I found several ways to stay optimistic in such times of crisis and chaos. First, meet people! Never, never stay all by yourself; the paranoia just gets worse and out of hand. Talking to people, especially strangers, surprisingly helps a lot. By asking around about each other, it helps to warms the heart and relieve the fear of the unknown lingering at the back of our minds. Second, say nice things to one another. At such times of depression, a simple phrase of praise or compliment helps to bring out the smile from within. Over the past three days, I was told twice by customers that I have a nice smile. It does not matter whether it is true or not; it really helps to elevate the gloomy mood.

However, with many of my friends taking the option of playing safe and leaving Tokyo, and that there is nothing I could do at the moment to help with the rescue efforts, there really isn’t anymore good reasons for me to stay here. I might have felt obligated to stay back and help out at the restaurant, but perhaps this is the time to be selfish. If I don’t save myself now, I won’t have the chance to save others when the time comes. It’s better that I leave now, I thought, as I contacted my parents about it. My family was fully supportive of the idea of me leaving, and so I left my house this morning, abandoning my part-time job, for the airport.

Without a ticket in hand, I was hoping to be on a waiting list for empty tickets of those who could not make it in time. I was too naive, the moment I arrived at the airport, everything was in a mayhem. Long queues at all the counters. It took me some time to figure out where I could inquire since most counters were closed. When I asked them, they told me that all direct flights to Korea were full for the next two or three days, and my only option left is an indirect flight, of which my father helped me to book.

And so, I have to wait 24 more hours at Narita Airport for a flight to Guangzhou in China, where I would spend 12 hours there, before getting on the transit flight to Seoul the following day. A long journey ahead, but all I care now is to get out safely.