Saturday 12 November 2011

Bonfire Night

Hi folks
Tonight it's Bonfire Night in the neighbouring town of Sukagawa - or rather the Taimatsu Akashi Festival that goes back 400 years. Last year I had visitors from England (Hi Heidi!) and we went to see it. The climax of the festival is the burning of about twenty bamboo poles, packed with grasses and reeds, hand made by local schools and organisations. This year, however, the reeds (kaya カヤ, as in kayabuki - thatch)were found to contain caesium.  The city appealed for donations and bamboo and kaya were sent from all over Japan. The  poles have been made as usual and a radiation-free festival will be enjoyed by all. This is the website (Japanese only) and I've put some of last year's photos at the end of this post.
Sukagawa Taimatsu Akashi website

Had dinner last night with some people who'd been to the Dalai Lama's talk. They were sitting in the front row and their main impression was how young he looked. He's 76 but has no wrinkles! He must be doing something right. When asked about the radiation he told listeners to heed the scientists. When asked about the tsunami he told people to move to higher ground. "If you have too much fear, too much worry, too much attachment, your mind becomes biased. With that kind of mind, you can't see reality. You need a calm mind to see things clearly." Good advice and I think we're getting there but certainly the first few months after the disaster there was a lot of fear, a lot of worry, people did get biased one way or the other, and we couldn't see the reality. Easier now, but still difficult for us mere mortals.

Reporters were taken on a bus tour of Fukushima Daiichi today. Foreign press too so the pictures are on the BBC. Up until now we've only seen fuzzy pictures taken from 30 km away but close to, the destruction, the mess, even eight months on is shocking. With radiation levels at 50 to 300 μSv/hr no one was allowed off the bus but they did to get to go into the control centre where officials are working and where the clearance workers get scanned (two thousand people - correction: three thousand people - working at the plant everyday). A few weeks ago the Spanish gave an award to honour those working at the plant and today Yoshida, the plant manager (the one who in the early days famously chose to ignore his boss's order to stop adding seawater) said in an interview that several times in that first week he thought he was a gonner. Yes, we owe these people a lot. Things are bad but they could have been even worse.
Good night
Taimatsu Akashi festival in Sukagawa. These youngsters have received the flame after a ceremony at a shrine
and go on to light torches around the town.

Everyone joins in taking the torch up the hill. (Fire hazard?)

At the top of the hill, the poles are set alight, one after the other.

And burn all night.

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