Wednesday 16 March 2011

Day Five

Dear Friends
It's been a difficult day.

At 11 am the prime minister announced that in additon to the20 km evacuation area,  people inside a 30km limit had to stay indoors.(Koriyama is 56 kms away ) We had a meeting at noon and decided to keep going.I was very unsure. Rumours were flying thick and fast. Companiesclosing and staff being sent home. We obviously needed a policy and I wasn'tsure what it was. I phoned my friend Sakai-san. I couldn't getthrough but he kindly rang me straight back. He put me right.Don't panic, Follow overnment instructions. Koriyama is not yetaffected. All his staff were working (system engineers). At times likethis you have to see what you can do to help, not run away.

So we had a policy. We made a flyer saying that we were supplyingessential goods and would keep going as long as we could but thatanyone was free to take paid leave if they wanted. We made up agoody bag of masks, sticky tape and drinks for everyone. Inessentialstaff were sent home. It seemed to do the trick and things really startedto happen from then. We had a visit from Rengo, the company that is buyingus out very soon. Their state of the art factory is damaged and closed.Could we make 50,000 cases for a noodle maker in Koriyama? I looked atthe order and it's for yakisoba and udon, all the stuff that's needed right now.Then Oji want us to make sheet for them. These are the two biggest companiesin the country and we're helping them out! So we have a full day's work  tomorrow,and I think enough staff. (We lent a car to one guy to share with the guy who didn'tknow how to catch a bus.)

But it's a fine line I'm treading. The government reassures us that the doses of radiationare minimal but traces have been found as far away as Tokyo.. It's one thing to begung ho and think you are helping the relief effort but the stakes are high in terms ofhuman health. TV footage of people panicking and driving out of the prefecturedon't help.

In the morning I went over to my apartment and removed the rest of my food store.As some of you will know for the past couple of years I have spent very happy timeswith a wonderful group of people planting and harvesting rice. Last October I bought30 kg of brown rice and there is still about 20 kg left. So I'm not short of food! I'd alsostockpiled bottled water so I am well prepared. Half the rice is at the company andhalf here so I will not starve howver long the duration. There's nothing much in the shops,the shelves are empty, All I could see were sweets, some biscuits and  ice cream! Too cold I guess for ice cream.

After the scare about radiation and the rain that started to fall in the afternoon, I decidedto drive home. We've had more minor tremours but no big ones today.Sorry, I take that back. We've just had a big one, Force 4.

BTW the radiation checks you are seeing in Koriyama and Nihonmatsu are for people who have been evacuated. Koriyama is one of the reception centres.

There isn't much time to think of the wider effects of all this but my heart goes out tothe farmers. Fukushima was just getting going in selling it's rice to China. Did you knowthere are 100 million Chinese with an income of more than 300,000 GBP/year? And even though it'sfour times the price of Chinese rice these people were prepared to buy Japanese rice as ittastes good and is safe. After years of paying farmers not to grow rice at last it seemed likethey might get a decent price and a decent living. But what of the Fukushima brand now? In tatters,

I feel very lucky to be in this solid, comfortable house (even though there's no running water )and I feel safe. I'll rest now for another tough day tomorrow.
Good night

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