Kozue Kono has said goodbye to her life in Tokyo.
The 36-year-old had worked in Internet-related businesses in Tokyo, while her husband was also employed in the capital.
But in late April, the accident at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant prompted them to sell their apartment in Tokyo’s Koto Ward, quit their jobs and move with their three young children to Uruma, Okinawa Prefecture, a place that was unfamiliar territory.
“If something happens to our children in the future (due to radiation), we, the parents, are responsible for that,” she said.
The husband is now looking for a job in Okinawa Prefecture.
According to an Asahi Shimbun survey based on Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications statistics, the number of people who moved out of the Tokyo metropolitan area (Tokyo, Kanagawa, Chiba and Saitama prefectures) exceeded the number who moved into the area in June and July.
As a result, the total population in the metropolitan area decreased by about 4,000 in the two months. In Tokyo alone, the population dropped by about 6,400.
Although the decrease may seem small for Tokyo, which still has a total population of 13.18 million, the population in the capital normally rises in the spring to summer months when people land jobs or enroll in universities.
Thousands of people from the stricken Tohoku region moved to Tokyo during the same period, but the overall population still dropped.
Since the March 11 earthquake and tsunami triggered the nuclear crisis, companies have dispersed the functions of their head offices from Tokyo to other prefectures. And residents continue to move to western Japan and other areas to avoid possible nuclear fallout.
In addition, the number of registered foreign residents in Tokyo has plummeted by about 10,000 since March 11.
Kenko.com Inc., which sells health food and other products on the Internet, set up an office in Fukuoka in May. By the end of August, about 30 of its 100 employees had been transferred to the new office.
Immediately after the March 11 disaster, the company was swamped with orders for mineral water and paper diapers. But the phone lines were sometimes jammed, making it difficult to talk with suppliers. In addition, some employees could not come to work in Tokyo because of rolling blackouts in the Kanto region.
The company plans to move half of its employees to Fukuoka by the end of this fiscal year.
Feynman, an information technology venture company in Tokyo’s Shibuya Ward that develops software for smartphones, transferred four employees to Ogaki, Gifu Prefecture, after the March 11 earthquake by renting a room in an industrial complex for IT companies.
Although the employees later returned to Tokyo after the threat of rolling blackouts subsided, Feynman plans to maintain the room in Ogaki to disperse the risks in the event of another emergency.
Junko Niwa, 38, left her house in Kamakura, Kanagawa Prefecture, three days after the March 11 quake, fearing her 4-year-old daughter could be exposed to dangerous levels of radiation.
After moving to the homes of relatives and acquaintances, she settled in Kagawa Prefecture with her husband and daughter.
“If we live in regions west of Osaka, we don’t have to worry about food or water,” she said.
She still travels to Tokyo every week for her work in environmental activities. Most of her income is used for transportation.
“I don’t mind the transportation fees at all as I am living in a place far from radioactive materials and, therefore, can feel at ease,” she said.
Among the non-Japanese who left Japan from April to July, about 4,500 of them were South Koreans.
The Seoul and Shanghai offices of Akamonkai Japanese Language School based in Tokyo’s Arakawa Ward has tried to convince people wanting to study in Japan that “Tokyo is safe.” Nearly 100 of its students returned to their home countries from April to June.
The number of new students who plan to enroll in the language school in October is down 5 percent from the same month last year.
“Some students said they plan to go to other countries to study. Next year is the crucial year for our school’s survival,” said Tokiyoshi Arai, the school’s managing director.
According to Kannichi Fudousan, a real estate company in Tokyo’s Shinjuku Ward that mainly handles rental accommodations for South Koreans and Chinese, the number of canceled contracts nearly doubled from March 11 to May.
Since June, the number of contracts has been increasing again. But a company official said: “The number of contracts is 70 to 80 percent of that in conventional years. The business situation for us is still harsh.”
(This article was written by Takuya Sumikawa and Kazuyo Nakamura.)
Link to the article on asahi.com.