Friday 27 May 2011

フクシマ or 福島?

Kan is in France and suddenly he's centre stage. Masterminded by Sarkozy in whose interests it is to show that Japan is on top of the accident and that nuclear is safe. It's strange to see French people saying 'Fukushima'. When people used to ask me where I lived, 'Fukushima' met with a blank expression and I had to explain that it was between Tokyo and Sendai, followed up by an explanation of where Sendai was. Now the whole world knows Fukushima.

Takeshi had a question after reading a Japanese newspaper I gave him when I was in England. The editorial in the Nikkei mentioned フクシマ 'Fukushima' written in katakana rather than the usual characters 福島. He was shocked as Hiroshima is written in katakana when people want to refer to the atom bomb rather than the city. He asked me if this is usual. I'm happy to say it's not. When the papers and TV refer to the area, the people or, say, the agricultural produce, it's written 福島. But I did see this usage in the papers the other day. A diplomat was talking about 安全なフクシマ, 'a safe Fukushima' so I guess Fukushima in katakana is being used to refer to the power station and the accident. Doesn't feel good, though.

Heartbreaking scenes on the television this evening. You remember that the hot spring town I was in last weekend is temporary home to the people of Namie-machi. Well, it was their turn today to revisit their homes for the first time since the quake. Four kilometers from Fukushima Daiichi with radiation levels of 44 microsievelts/hour. They showed a makeshift Buddhist memorial service held amongst the debris on the coast. In another context it would be ridiculous - the Buddhist priest with an orange robe over his white protective suit and the mourners in white garb, shower caps, masks and green plastic gloves - but it was just very very sad. The people visited their homes and salvaged what they could (one bin liner full). One family's cat was still alive. They left food for it but couldn't bring it out.

Two and a half months after the accident Tokyo Electric have let it be known that Reactors 2 and 3 suffered meltdown on the 15 and 14 March. Work continues to be difficult with high radiation levels (workers only allowed to work 15 minutes at a time in Reactor 2) and the endless problem of how to deal with the contaminated water which is still being hosed in for cooling. A huge barge (which used to be an island for people to fish off!) has arrived which can be used to store water and the Americans and French are working on systems to circulate and clean the water - but they're not up and running yet. 

Meanwhile we suffer. Sales appalling for May too. Some areas further away (manufacturing in Yamagata and Aizu) are doing well but there are no fruit and veg to pack. We have orders but production hasn't started yet. Everything is so late, three weeks at least. Again, I thank God I've sold the business. I'm not sure we could have weathered this storm. The new CEO starts on Monday. I've had the big cracks on the stairway plastered and painted over. But I don't think I'm going to be able to plaster over the cracks in this year's budget. Poor guy - posted to Fukushima and presented with a budget massively in the red. This is going to test his mettle.

Bye for now

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