Wednesday 1 June 2011


I was in the bank today leafing through a magazine (it always takes ages) and I noticed an article about a Greenpeace survey of marine life off the Fukushima coast. Japanese weekly magazines (shukanshi, 週刊誌)are a bit like the English tabloids: going for headlines, risque, of dubious provenance. Yet you do find insights not generally available on mainstream television and newspapers which tend to toe the government line. I looked at the Greenpeace website (below) and the results were published on May 27th - but I haven't heard about this on TV or even in the local paper which  usually has very thorough reporting of the the accident. It seems like this news has been blocked out.

The article was saying that the Japanese governement had refused to let Greenpeace ships collect data as they used different criteria. It was also suggested that there was confusion about what Greenpeace is. A lot of people in Japan think of the Sea Shepherd and think that Greenpeace is an anti-whaling terrorist organisation (whereas Sea Shepherd is a radical offshoot of Greenpeace but now no longer connected). Anyway you can see the results of the survey in a link from the article below and they show extremely high levels of iodine and caseium, especially in seaweed.

Another word that you hear a lot these days is 'internal exposure' (naibu hibaku 内部被爆). The levels of radiation in the air are widely reported (in Koriyama it was 4.4 microsievelts/hour to start with, falling steadily and now at only 1.3). We know that iodine and caesuim taken in as food is very dangerous (food above 500 bequerels/ is banned). But it's just beginning to dawn on people that even if we don't ingest it in our food, if it's in the air, we will be breathing it in. To measure these levels you need something called a 'whole body counter' but 2,000 people working at Fukushima Daiichi are waiting to be tested by these machines which are in very short supply.

Radiation levels are low and we are probably quite safe but it's a nagging doubt and constant anxiety for us here. The prefecture has announced it's going to survey all 2.2 million inhabitants over several decades. I suppose they mean well but it does rather reinforce our suspicions that we are all guinea pigs in this.

Late at night there's a TV advert for an orthodontist in the centre of town which  has the GReeeeN song playing in the background - so I think I've identified one of the group. Anyone need their teeth straightening?


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