Friday 9 September 2011

New government: beginning of recovery?

Only a week into the job and our new Prime Minister visited Fukushima today. He went to J-Village and thanked the workers at the plant, saw a clean-up experiment in Date, Fukushima City and then met with the governor. So he seems to be true to his word, rolling up his sleeves and getting on with the job. And maintaining a sense of gravitas dressed in white radiation suit and blue swimming hat is no mean achievement. He's left the Minister for the Recovery (Hirano) and the Minister in charge of the Nuclear Accident (Hosono) in the same jobs which is good news. No time to waste in handovers.

Genba Koichiro, 47, is the new Foreign Minister. He's a local MP, from Funahiki, about 20 miles east of Koriyama. Disappointed he's not got a more active role in the disaster - Foreign Minister is about as far away as you can get. I remember him talking on TV about playing soccer as a boy and being amazed at the grass playing fields at away matches near the nuclear plants (he was used to playing on dirt).  Maybe it's also got something to do with the fact that he's married to a daughter of the former governor (Sato Eisaku, the one who was forced to resign in an alleged conspiracy for criticising safety at Fukushima's nuclear reactors). Oh well, I hope he's successful in explaining Fukushima to the world and getting us international help and support.

UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, was in Fukushima a few weeks ago and pledged international help. We're certainly going to need it. The scale of the disaster is beginning to dawn on people. When I was in Ura Bandai at the weekend at one of the hotels I met a lady evacuated from Namie-machi, eight kilometres from Fukushima Daiichi. She said she'd been back but had given up hope of ever returning. Even the mayor of Iitate, ever positive and constructive, has said that pregnant women and infants will not be able to return in two years. Radiation levels are falling and the problem is not so much with the air but with the particles that are on the soil. It all has to be cleaned up - at vast expense. Good news today that sunflowers have been shown to absorb caesium by as much as 50% thereby cleaning the soil. There's a problem though with the radioactive sunflowers themselves which have to be disposed of somehow.

Word of the moment is josen (除染), meaning clean-up, decontamination.

Series of rock concerts starting next week master-minded by show biz personality and son of Koriyama, Nishida Toshiyuki ( Starts in Oku-Aizu on Wednesday, moving to Aizu Castle on Thursday, shore of Lake Inawashiro on Friday, Koriyama on Saturday, Soma on Sunday and Iwaki on Monday. It's not my scene but wouldn't mind seeing Fukuyama Masahiro who'll be at the Koriyama performance. (He's a singer, songwriter and guitarist but starred as 19th century revolutionary Sakamoto Ryoma in last year's NHK Sunday night historical drama.) This is his latest song Kazoku ni Naro yo, Let's Make a Family. It's struck a chord here as the disaster has made people value family ties which before they'd taken for granted.

Good night from a pleasantly cool Koriyama

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