Sunday 1 May 2011

Rice Fields in Miharu

It didn't seem right to spoil the euphoria of yesterday's fairy tale Royal Wedding with gripes and groans of life in Fukushima. Not that I had anything to complain of. I had a lovely day with Naochika's two old friends. We stayed at Ichiriki in Bandai Atami, a famous hotel with a beautiful garden. The bath, especially my morning bath, outside, amongst the trees with a nightingale singing was magical. (Well, it was an 'uguisu' singing which is translated as 'nightingale', though to tell you the truth I don't think I've ever heard a nightingale sing).

Later in the day we went to Miharu to see the famous weeping cherry. The blossom was all but over but it's a  magnificent tree at any season, a thousand years old they say, with a massive trunk. Funny experience driving there. At first it seemed like a typical country landscape, hamlets and hills - 'satoyama' - but there was something wrong. This is Golden Week and and the fields should be flooded and neighbours and relatives should be out in the fields planting the rice. But the fields had last year's stubble, it was a March scene, as if time had stopped on 11 March. The farmers have been told to start cultivation and some rotavating was being done on the bigger fields nearer Koriyama. But not on these small fields in the hills. And where were the people? It was a nice sunny day. Where was the washing and the futon? Japanese love to get everything out in the sunshine but mile after mile, nothing.

More confusion in the schools. A Tokyo university professor who was an advisor to the government has resigned over the '20 millisieverts a year is OK' message. He says it's far too high for children. The government retaliated by saying that 1 to 20 is the limit and they're trying to keep it as low as possible. But for schools and parents it only adds to the confusion and damages the credibility of the government.

My big news is that the cracks on the outside of the apartment around my doorway have been covered over with sticky tape and plastic board. I know it's only cosmetic but it makes such a difference. I shuddered every time I saw the gaping cracks. Thousands of volunteers, mainly young people, are spending their holidays at the disaster areas clearing up the mess and in the same way this will make a difference to the people there.

In a few hours I'm going to get the bus to the airport and I'm going to spend a few days in England. I've asked the other directors to cover for me in an emergency, say another hydrogen explosion and Koriyama getting evacuated. Not as far-fetched as it might seem: we've been told that as Unit 1 is cooled, pressure is falling and this could trigger an explosion.

But for me for the moment it's bluebells and Real Ale. Here I come!
More anon.

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