Paul Cunningham (@RTENewsPaulC) returns to Tokyo where he finds a city that is emptying out but he meets some people who are determined to stay.
It's midday Friday and I'm standing at Tokyo's Shinjuku station - one of the largest in the city. On any regular day, as many as 4 million commuters pass through Shinjuku. That's close to the population of Ireland travelling through the one station. However this lunchtime the numbers are down dramatically. There's a spurt of activity but then things go quiet.
That absence of people is noticeable right across the city. The number of taxis on street corners is substantial because fewer people are jumping onto the backseat. Bars are no longer crushed. Restaurants have seats.
The reason is that many residents of Tokyo have moved out of the city for a few days. Their companies are facilitating them. France was the first country to advise its citizens to leave Tokyo. Ireland followed suit a few days later. But the fact of the matter is that most people stayed.
Last night, I visited a number of Irish bars in the popular Roppongi district. Traditional music was blaring out side of Paddy Foley's bar, which describes itself as Tokyo's 'first and most famous Irish pub'.
A St Patrick's Day parade planned for last weekend was cancelled as the catastrophic nature of the tsunami became known. Along a kilometre of Tokyo streetscape, the Irish tri-colour hung proudly but there were no celebrations.
On St Patrick's night itself, the mood was upbeat in Foley's. Two things became apparent very quickly.
The people I spoke to were all intending on staying - despite the situation at the Fukushima plant being described as 'very critical'. What was also clear was that they believed the media, especially international outlets, were feeding fear rather than reporting facts.
All of the people I spoke to said they were keeping in contact with the Irish Embassy in Tokyo. So the following morning I called in to see the Irish Ambassador to Japan, John Neary. Accessible to the media and a straight talker, Neary had travelled to Sendai, the area worst affected by the tsunami, in his bid to get first hand knowledge of the crisis as well as assist Irish people trying to exit the region.
One of his most immediate problems was that it was unclear precisely how many Irish people are actually in Japan. That's because Irish nationals are not required to register with the Embassy - some do, others don't. The best guess is around 2,000 - but it's unknown who has left the country, moved south from Tokyo or are still in the capital.
In an office block, which also accommodates Enterprise Ireland, Neary said he was optimistic that the Japanese authorities would ultimately be able to stabilise the Fukushima plant BUT he was monitoring events closely.
Neary has been in the post since September but, even though a relative new-comer, he felt the capital was in a ‘very high state of anxiety’ about what might happen in Tokyo if things got significantly worse at the plant.
Even though he was staying, the advice of the Irish Government is for citizens to leave Tokyo ‘for the time being’. Mr Neary said that many had heeded that advice and either returned home or travelled to the west and south of the country - further away from Fukushima.
What about the health risk in Tokyo? Mr Neary said that while radiation levels had increased ‘slightly’ on Tuesday, they had not returned to normal and ‘were not a cause for concern’.
But in the reassuring words he gave, Mr Neary also qualified what he said. The Embassy was watching things closely. Officials were taking expert advice both from EU member states and also the Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland.
That caution is well-advised. Tonight in Tokyo, the risk of danger posed by the Fukushima nuclear plants has been increased from a 4 to a 5 on a scale of 7. The International Energy Agency characterises the situation as ‘very serious’. No-one is arguing otherwise.