First day back at work after the holiday. Office staff and production managers only. All eight salesmen on the phones at once trying to find out what's going on. Never seen the office so busy. Then the guy in accounts announces he's negotiated for some petrol. Five salesmen can go and get 20 litres each. Company cars only and they have to take their business cards. It's quiet for a while but they're back soon: the petrol stand is closed for business, roped off, but they were let in specially. Essential staff (nurses and police officers, for example) are getting petrol in the same way. They've been issued with big cards to put in their windscreens but rumour has it these cards are doing the rounds.
Rumour is rife. It was the rumour of 'black rain' last Wednesday that prompted a major exodus. 'Black rain' is etched in the Japanese psyche. It fell in Hiroshima shortly after the bomb. There's a word for this rumour-mongering. It's 'fuhyo' in Japanese (風評). Not a word I'd come across before but now we hear it all the time. The phrase of the moment is 'fuhyo higai', damage caused by rumour. The government retaliates by giving us lots of statistics and telling us that levels are not harmful at all but spinach is now a dirty word and no spinach is selling wherever it comes from. Poor farmers. The Fukushima farmers are throwing away all their milk and the latest is caesium in the sea. Poor fishing industry. The bill for this is growing daily. Tokyo Electric is going to have to compensate all these people, or the government (us, the taxpayer).
The results of the phone survey reach me in the evening. Out of 170 customers over 100 are unaffected with business as normal. We have been unable to contact 7 companies with addresses in Minami Soma, Namie on the coast here in Fukushima, and Miyako in Miyagi prefecture, all places that have been in the news, hit by the tsunami. Heavy damage in many big companies: damage to buildings and machinery, damage to a furnace producing glass fibre. In many cases head office will decide to concentrate resources elsewhere rather than rebuild damaged factories. There will be closures. For many smaller companies this is the final straw after decades of struggling with recession and deflation. The worry is that we could lose quite a few of our bigger customers.
The girl who does the payroll did all the calculations and got the data off to the bank in one day. It must be a record. But as she said, if there's an evacuation order tonight, no one will get paid. The post is back to normal so cheques are coming in. And we have oil. Two deliveries of 2,000 litres each from two companies tomorrow and another 2,000 litres on Friday from another company. (One of these companies was only taken on recently. It certainly pays to diversify.) We have paper. Cornstarch arriving tomorrow. Ink procured today. And all the staff are able to come in; either they have petrol or they're coming in by bus. So we're all set.
At the reactor, the white smoke cleared (still not sure what caused it) and work has resumed. A new machine, a giant bird-like structure used to shoot concrete into high rise construction sites, sent seawater into Unit 4 and electric cables have been laid to all six units although they are not connected yet.
Petrol in my car is getting uncomfortably low. Two strips on the fuel guage. The car is a hybrid, Prius, so probably enough for 150 kms. Enough for limping between home and office but not enough to make my escape in worst case scenario.
Other news is that the door to my apartment has been adjusted and now shuts. So I was able to lock the door. My belongings are now safe. Not that I was ever worried about them. I haven't heard of any looting and people should be proud of that.
In Koriyama rubbish collections resumed today and some nurseries re-opened although all the schools are still closed.
What with the lack of petrol, the aftershocks and the worry over the reactor, life is pretty nerve-wracking. But we have electricity, hot water, and a focus, unlike the many thousands of displaced people who face much more uncertain futures.Love to you all