In other countries, people might want to put more distance between themselves and the source of the radiation, but this is difficult on a crowded archipelago with a rigid job market. Thousands have fled nonetheless, but most people in the disaster area will have to stay and adjust. Doing so would be easier if there were clear guidance from scientists and politicians, but here, too, contemporary Japan seems particularly vulnerable. The country has just got its seventh prime minister in five years. Academia and the media have been tainted by the powerful influence of the nuclear industry. As a result, a notoriously conformist nation is suddenly unsure what to conform to. “Individuals are being forced to make decisions about what is safe to eat and where is safe to live, because the government is not telling them – Japanese people are not good at that,” says Satoshi Takahashi, one of Japan’s leading clinical psychologists. He predicts the mental fallout of the Fukushima meltdown will be worse than the physical impact.
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