Thursday 7 April 2011

When will this end?

We had a visit today from the guy I told you about before, who makes printing dyes for us in his factory north of Sendai. We hadn't heard anything more about his request for corrugated sheet to use as partitions in the evacuation centres and I presumed that the need was over, that we had been too late. But it seems that is far from the truth. He says conditions up there are dreadful. There are still places not connected by road and receiving helicopter drops. He was afraid any sheet we sent would be burned since there is still no oil for heating and people are cold! He's waiting till people get more organised, into small groups, and then he's going to measure up and ask us to make the sheets.

He's over 60 and only last year had a bout with cancer and he's lost his own mother in the tsunami but he's volunteering at weekends. He says he's still doing a lot of work with the foreign media, as a spokesman or finding people to be interviewed. I said that everyone abroad was full of admiration for the way the Japanese people are coping but he said the reality is very different. He said the people are getting energy from the many foreign volunteers. He also mentioned a mountaineering group who had got members together from all over the country on Twitter and had come to help.

I relate these facts as he said them. It was a brief conversation but a real outpouring from the heart. Over and over he said, 'Hisan desu' (悲惨です), it's terrible. 'Hisan' translates as wretched, miserable, pitiable, tragic. You get the picture.

The long-awaited results of the soil survey were in the papers this morning but the results are confusing and worrying. The measure is of bequerels of caesium (134 and 137) per kilogram of soil. Normal conditions are in the tens. Only Nishi-Aizu, in the far west, had a reading at that level (42). Everywhere else was over 100. Iidate, north of the reactor where the contaminated milk was found had a whopping 15,031. Hirata where the brown rice I have been living on these past few weeks was grown had a reading of 238 (paddy) and 403 (dry fields). Koriyama had a reading of 875 near Sakuragaoka in my old house where I was staying until last week but in town it's 2,500 and near our shiitake packing factory to the north 3,600. There seems to be no rhyme nor reason to these figures. Places near the reactor are low(ish) while Koriyama, Nihonmatsu, Fukushima, big towns 60 km away have high readings.The tests are to repeated in these places and farmers have been asked to delay starting work.

As for the other places, this request has not been made so farmers are in theory able to start tilling the fields. But there are no national standards as yet so everything is vague and unsatisfactory. These are not the results everyone was hoping for and will only fuel the damage to Fukushima food and products.

Shocking bit on the news about a delivery company which had been asked not to make deliveries in Tokyo in its trucks with Iwaki numberplates. I've heard similar stories myself and you get the odd comment. Feel like I'm in a biblical leper colony!

Just this moment we have had a massive earthquake. There is a tsunami warning out.
I'm sorry. I can't write anymore.


  1. I am so sad to hear about the awful stories from the north.

    I caught on the news just now about the earthquake you just had. It must be impossible to get any meaningful rest. We're all thinking of you here in the UK.


  2. Oh Anne, what a day! - It sounds like things just went from bad to worse, I really hope tomorrow is a bit easier. This is the first time I have plucked up the courage to write on your blog but have been reading it every day and am very grateful for the news - Thank you. My mum was here in Austria at the weekend and I even got her up in a ski-resort - although not on skis! We read your blog every evening and even had a look at your new book cover on amazon, -it's not really Takeshi on the cover is it? All the best with that!

    Thinking of you every day, Love Ciara

  3. Dear Anne: I'm not much good at this modern technology but I sent you a message some days back & have no idea whether you got it. This latest news makes us, Sylvia & Ben, extremely worried. You can't do a Canute all alone so you must not leave it till too late to get out safely. I don't imply that a "good" outcome is impossible, only that it will be a fine judgement when the last moment arrives. I am anti-nuclear power only on the basis of the impossibility of managing the waste in the longer term. The after effects of the earthquake are proving to be further evidence of this. I fear that you are at the centre of a long drawn out event! Meanwhile we are lost in admiration for your courage & tenacity. Keep your focus. Sylvia & Ben