I think I may have been too critical of the Voluntary Departees (writing it out that way doesn't sound right, like they all committed suicide, but it's better than abbreviating with "VD").
Some have gone simply because it's a government-sponsored vacation, which I'd heard as rumor but had not seen in print until this Stars and Strips article. I have mixed feelings about that.
Some have left because they are so freaked out that they are having trouble functioning. I still think that level of fear of radiation is irrational and unfounded, but if they can't function normally because of the stress, putting them on a plane was the best thing for everyone. I have more sympathy for people traumatized by the earthquakes; the big ones were scary even at this distance and there was a good week of frequent aftershocks. They've become significantly less frequent and less powerful since then, but every now and again they're still noticeable.
Stars and Stripes also has this article in which one person said she left to free up resources for people who stayed, which is noble although I'm not sure it has or will in any practical way.
Another woman left because there was a chance the on-base clinic wouldn't be able to get supplies needed for her pregnancy. Also reasonable.
Or the guy having his wife visit family elsewhere in the country because, on the off chance we did end up having a mandatory evacuation, it would be absolute chaos in logistics. I can't argue with that logic.
Some of it is a difference in priorities. I understand most people that left are wives with small children; I guess I can't really evaluate their decision by my criteria because I don't have kids.
Maybe it would be different if it were for a predetermined amount of time instead of "until we say so."
Maybe it would be different if there was just one city I wanted to go back to, but my parents are in upstate NY, my mother-in-law is in FL, and my job and a significant percentage of my friends are in the DC area. Where to end up isn't an easy choice.
Husband would be staying here, so any trip would be solo. Already not desirable with an open time frame.
And what about the cat? He could stay, but I'm told he gets a little insufferable when I'm out of town. (Not to mention that I'd miss him and not know when or if I'd see him again.) If the cat came with me, it would be a minimum of 8 months before he could return to Japan because of the paperwork and vaccines. Getting him here the first time was an enormous ordeal, I'm not eager to repeat it.
I'm largely balancing perceived danger (still extremely small) with how much it would muck up my life to get on a flight back to the US (significant). But it's not just that. If I were still in DC and there were radiation fears in NYC, I wouldn't see any reason to flee the state, let alone the country. The Japanese aren't leaving in any significant numbers as far as I can tell.
Tokyo is where I want to be and it's going to take actual danger instead of potential danger to make me even consider leaving.