Today was a day of firsts. I had to go and see a client so it was the first time to wear a suit and nice shoes, the first time to carry a handbag (though I'm still reluctant to be separated from my rucksack and valuables), and the first time to sit in a coffee shop. I felt so sophisticated!
Nearly three weeks after the disaster and things seem to be moving from emergency mode to recovery. The road along the Miyagi coast reopened today, the police have gone to the evacuation centres and set up offices so people can get new driving licences (ID), there's a system in place for getting rid of abandoned cars, and people are starting to clean up. At the office we're inundated with informaton about grants and financing. I found out today that national insurance direct debits have been cancelled in the five affected prefectures (Aomori, Iwate, Miyagi, Fukushima and Ibaragi), the deadline extended, and that we have to pay over the counter. It's a goodwill gesture to avoid putting extra strains on businesses at this time and perhaps a way of finding out which businesses are still in operation. But what a mammoth task! Somebody's been busy.
The president, of Tokyo Electric came on TV and apologised profusely for the mess. (The CEO is in hospital. Ill? Got the sack?) He said reactors 1 to 4 would have to be closed down. So that's good to know. But Chief Cabinet Secretary Edano said in the morning that it would take a long time to cool them down. The governor of Fukushima attended a press conference, said he wanted to see an end to the problems at the reactor, and walked off. He had nothing else to say.
He's not the only one who's mad. Earlier I talked about 'fuhyo higai' (風評被害）the damage caused by rumours. First it was Fukushima spinach, then any spinach. And I said then that the Fukushima brand was in tatters. Now it's anything and everything made in Japan. It's ridiculous. Exports of fibres made in Osaka, industrial products in Yamaguchi, tea from Kyoto are all being cancelled because of the Fukushima reactor, hundreds and hundreds of miles away. Manufacturers are having to make little certificates with maps of Japan on them to show they're nowhere near us and the Osaka Chamber of Commerce is issuing certificates to show that products were made where they said they were made. Geiger counters are the new 'must have'. Up to now, the Japanese government and NHK have been doing their best to counter the rumour mongering by giving out information and appealing for calm but how do you combat this on a global scale?
Another first today was buying a loaf of bread (as opposed to sticky sweet rolls) in the Seven Eleven so I'm going to treat myself to some beans on toast. But the shelves are still empty and there are no cigarettes. Smokers are getting desperate. It's going to take a while yet to get back to normal.
Bye for now