Tuesday 5 April 2011

Iodine Pills

Hi folks
I got a phone call today from the British Embassy reminding me that they are recommending British nationals within an 80 km radius of the reactor to leave (Koriyama is 56 km away). I asked why when the Japanese government recommends shelter up to a radius of only 30 km and was referred to their website which merely states that it is a precautionary measure and in line with US recommendations. If only life was so simple! I run a business with 100 staff and after a bit of bother last year with a dishonest employee, I am the sole guardian of the company seals: without me, no cheques would be stamped, no official documents would be authorised. Unfortunately, I can't jump ship.

But the embassy are going to send me some iodine pills. I've been looking at the instructions. You only get enough for two doses and a dose only lasts 24 hours so you haven't to waste them. You have to wait until the 'black plume' of radiation gets near.  I'm old enough to remember the Cold War and the instructions we were given in case of a nuclear bomb. You were supposed to turn the understairs cupboard into a shelter, line it with tin-foil and stay there for two weeks. How a family was supposed to breathe for two weeks in such a small place I don't know. A while back such reminiscences would have been comical. No laughing matter now. But I thought this was not supposed to be a Chernobyl style meltdown, that worst case scenario would be a gradual contamination of the soil (which is certainly happening). If someone can enlighten me I would be very grateful. In the meantime, I'll hang onto the pills.

The news from the reactor goes from bad to worse. The water they dumped last night is drifting south along the coast and not dispersing as expected. The Koreans are angry that it was dumped at night and without warning.The fisherman are devastated. The TV shows diagrams of the food chain which for once are not at all reassuring. The plankton, seaweed and little fish near the shore are going to be contaminated and then they're going to be eaten by bigger fish which in several months time could show levels of caesium 100 times normal  (caesium is the bad one that takes 30 years to disintegrate).

Proofs of my new book, Conversational Japanese:  the right word at the right time  have just arrived and Tuttle, the publishers, want to go to press on April 18th. Yikes! Since I am by training a linguist, I thought I'd finish today, for those of you who are interested, with some of the current words and phrases being used in this crisis.
Love to you all

First, the earthquake:
(Note: I don't know how to do macrons on this blog so long vowels are marked either with an extra vowel or with an 'h')

東日本大震災   Higashi Nihon Daishinsai     The Great East Japan Earthquake (the name changed three       times. This is the final official version)
地震         jishin               earthquake
津波         tsunami              (no translation needed)
震災         shinsai                earthquake disaster (this is used a lot, for example:    震災から初めて買物へ行った shinsai kara hajimete kaimono e itta  I went shopping for the first time since the quake)
余震         yoshin               aftershock(s)
断水         dansui               no water supply
停電         teiden               power cut
避難所        hinanjo             evacuation centre
被災地        hisaichi             area affected by the disaster
救援物資        kyuuen busshi         relief supplies
日赤           Nisseki             The Japanese Red Cross (contraction of Nihon Seki Juuji) 
仮設住宅       kasetsu juutaku         temporary housing
運行、運休       unkoh, unkyuu         These are the words used to tell you if the trains are running. Unkoh means they are running. Unkyuu means the service is suspended.

Next, the nuclear disaster:
原発         genpatsu              nuclear power station (contraction of 原子力発電所 genshiroku hatsudensho)
福島原発事故    Fukushima genpatsu jiko      accident at the Fukushima nuclear power station
東電        Tohden                                     Tokyo Electric (abbreviation of Tokyo Denryoku, usually appears in English press as Tepco)
原子炉       genshiro               reactor
冷却水       reikyakusui              water for cooling
放射能        hohshanoh             radiation
避難地域     hinan chiiki              evacuation area
屋内退避地域   okunai taihi chiiki           area where you should remain indoors, shelter
土壌汚染     dojoh ohsen             contamination of the soil

And finally, a really nice word:
心のケア   kokoro no kea    literally, 'care of the heart', it's an all purpose word with a very wide application ranging from holding a child's hand, to listening to someone's problems, to professional counselling.


  1. Best explanation I seen so far, but kinda long, 1 hour+(!) conference.
    Fukushima: Timeline, Facts, & Implications for Nuclear Power

    From Afar, a Vivid Picture of Japan Crisis

    The unpalatable truth is that the anti-nuclear lobby has misled us all


    more than 1 week old but still valid:
    TMI: Fear, Fukushima and Facts

  2. This guy is tackling some of the rumors going on japanese twitter and 2channel:

  3. Hello! Just found this blog and love it... thought I'd point out that I'm sure through no mistake of your own (we've all hit the space bar a bit too hastily) this word is 'misspelled': 非難所 in case you'd like to fix it! :)