Monday 4 April 2011

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Dear Friends
I moved back to my apartment today. It's still got big cracks in the wall on the north side (see photo Day Four) but the door closes properly now and there's not much damage once you get inside. Senzaki-san and his wife who gave me lodgings for the past three weeks, organised a little dinner last night with champagne. I dressed up a bit and it was wonderful to feel civilised again.

Driving into town from Sakuragaoka the fields were empty. Most farmers around here are part-time farmers so normally a Sunday in spring would see lots of people out in the fields. But I saw no one. Eerie.

Filled up with petrol, no trouble. Gone up to 155 yen/litre from 135 yen. But that's Libya.

At the reactor, they've plugged the crack with plastic but worryingly the radiation levels in the sea have not fallen. Chief Cabinet Secretary Edano has announced that the evacuation areas are to be reviewed. Up to now they've been rather crude: a 20 km exclusion zone shown as a red circle; and outside that a 10 km zone (30 km from the reactor) shown in orange, where people are supposed to stay indoors. Some maps which have been circulating for about a week now show radiation levels to be high in a crescent-shaped area which covers Iidate-mura 40 km north-west of the reactor where the contaminated milk was found. These maps were based on computer simulations drawn up after the explosions on the 14th and 15th and warned of radiation being detected as far away as Shizuoka but they were not made public as 'equipment had been damaged in the earthquake and the figures were incomplete'. On the other hand, we now hear that the test for beef last week was mistaken and Fukushima beef is not affected. But it's too late now. The damage has been done. Sometimes the government seems over-zealous in giving out information and at other times seems to be holding it back. It doesn't inspire confidence. But the gist of it is that it's going to take months not weeks to control the reactor - by which I mean stop the radiation - and that new reality is beginning to sink in.

In the disaster areas things seem more organised. For the past three days a massive search has been mounted to try and recover bodies. 25,000 American and Japanese soldiers, 120 aircraft, 60 ships, are searching the coast. What a horrible job. Of the 16,000 reported missing they only found 66 in the first two days.

Officials are also going round assessing the damage to buildings and issuing certificates (four levels of damage) which will form the basis for compensation.

One hears a lot too of restoration and renewal. The Prime Minister has promised the first meeting of a 'Renewal Committee' on April 11th, a month after the quake. He's promised to rebuild towns on higher ground, make them models of ecology and aimed at an ageing population.

As for the area around the reactor, people are saying that the 20 km zone at least will be nationalised. Maybe they'll turn it into a giant power station and let us have some of the electricity this time to power the new industries that will have to be developed here to replace agriculture and fishing. Koriyama could actually benefit.

I'd run out of foundation and replensihing stocks was an important task today but with the shopping mall still closed (I hear there was a fire, which activated the sprinklers and wet all the stock) and the Ati building (old Seibu department store) at the station also closed, I was forced to shop in the pile 'em high sell 'em cheap drugstore near the station. Treacly Japanese female volcalist's rendition of Holst's Jupiter already making me feel emotional when the place began to shake and rattle. A few things fell off the shelves. We all held our breath. But it didn't last long. I grabbed some cheap teenage make-up, paid at the till and left. A typical day in Koriyama.
Love to you all

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