Last Briton flees Japan for Fenstanton

THE last British national to be evacuated from earthquake-stricken northern Japan has arrived back in Huntingdonshire with a positive message: Ganbatte Nippon – you can do it, Japan!

THE last British national to be evacuated from earthquake-stricken northern Japan has arrived back in Huntingdonshire with a positive message: Ganbatte Nippon – you can do it, Japan!

Alastair Dixon said he returned to Fenstanton for the sake of his three children, aged five, three and nine months, as they were living about 40 miles from the Fukushima nuclear plant, which has been leaking radiation since being damaged by the earthquake and tsunami.

But it was a difficult decision for the 32-year-old, as it meant leaving behind the family of his Japanese wife, Mayumi.

Alastair, who has lived in Japan for seven years working as a cultural adviser to the Japan education board, fled the tsunami-hit city of Sendai following advice from the British Embassy. He and his family were on the last scheduled flight for evacuees on Sunday (March 20).

“Although the Japanese authorities said there should be a 60km (37-mile) exclusion zone around the plant, it didn’t feel safe when the international community was saying an 80km (50-mile) zone was necessary. We left for the sake of the children.”

The embassy offered the Dixons the opportunity to evacuate to Hong Kong or Australia, but they were adamant they wanted to return to Fenstanton.

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After leaving with just one suitcase between the five family members, they are now living with his parents.

“All the neighbouring towns and villages were completely destroyed,” Alastair said. “Our house was literally just a few miles from the tsunami. It has a few cracks, but the roads were completely destroyed.”

Left with no electricity and no running water, people were forced to collect river water to flush toilets and queue in lines of up to 1,000 people for drinking water and food rations.

The Dixons were luckier than many. They had food supplies in their fridge and 20 litres of clean water collected in a garden butt.

At the time the earthquake struck, Alastair had returned home early from work, ready for the weekend.

“I walked through the door, put my bag down, and kissed the kids, who were watching cartoons on the TV, when the earthquake hit. We opened the large screen window to use as a possible escape route and then huddled behind the sofa.”

The Dixons escaped unscathed, but their community had been devastated.

Outside, Alastair said, it was “apocalyptic” – like “walking through the streets of Cambridge and it being desolate”.

He added: “There was a strange, quiet, calm outside but with chaos and destruction everywhere. It was very beautiful and horrid at the same time.”

The Dixons said their fears hit home when they tried to get on with normal life and the radiation threat brought an end to their stay.

Alastair intends to take his family back to Japan but not until that threat is past.

Until then, he is using his time to talk to children in Huntingdonshire about Japan and is urging people to join his Ganbatte Nippon poster campaign – a scheme to show support for the devastated Japanese communities.

“There are many people raising money and donating, that’s great and very much needed,” Alastair said.

“We, however, feel the creative and emotional support is often overlooked.”

INFORMATION: To show your support, create a poster with the words ‘Ganbatte Nippon’, get a photograph of you (or someone else) holding it and either e-mail to Alastair at or post it on Facebook.

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