Expats on Hokkaido laid back about North Korean missiles

Published:  31 Aug at 6 PM
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Despite being woken up by the sound of warning sirens as the North Korean ballistic missile screamed over their heads, expats on Hokkaido are taking the threat in their strides.

Japan’s northernmost island of Hokkaido is popular as a destination for expats with teaching qualifications, with the capital city of Sapporo hosting a community hailing from Australia, the USA and the UK. They’re all familiar with the North Korean dictator’s aggressive statements and his rocket launchings, but mostly ignore them and get on with their lives.

This week, however, was a different story, as a North Korean missile was deliberately fired on a track which breached Japanese air space and passed over Hokkaido before it broke into pieces and crashed into the ocean. One Irish expat teacher living in Sapporo was woken by the warning sirens at 6 a.m, read the accompanying official text message on his phone and didn’t pay much heed. He assumed a missile had fallen in the Sea of Japan, as had several others tested recently.

When his neighbour urged him to go to the subway station and take cover, he realised this time was different and quickly packed supplies, phone chargers and internet modems as well as several photos of his family. Just as he met up with his neighbours, the all clear sounded and everything returned to normal. Since then, he and his friends have formulated evacuation plans, as the community is worried subsequent missiles may be aimed at Hokkaido.

Australian Scott Walker has lived in Hirafu with his wife for 20 years, and was unconcerned about the warnings. He continued his daily routine after he’d checked his phone message as he felt taking shelter wouldn’t help much should the missile land. Former Sydney resident Ross Findlay admitted the reality of missiles roaring over his home was disturbing, adding he and the majority of Japanese people were well used to North Korea’s threats. He told local media no-one’s pleased about it, but everyone realises there’s nothing they can do to change the situation.
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