Thursday, 28 July 2011

Hi from England

Dear Friends,
I'm in England writing this on a cool summer's evening. Nine thirty at night, and just getting dark. A month ago, at the summer solstice, it would have been light until well after ten. I'm enjoying doing all those ordinary things I can't do in Fukushima - sitting out in the garden, going for long walks, hanging out the washing. 

Not that all is well in the Garden of Eden. I mentioned before the issue of HS2, the high speed rail line (a shinkansen) planned to run through this valley on its way to Birmingham and beyond. The 29 July, this Friday, is the closing date for responses to the public consultation so yours truly has been swotting up the issues and filed her response today online. 

It's a difficult one. Living in Japan I recognise the economic merits of a high speed rail network but what they seem to call here 'blight' (the noise and general unpleasantness that the line creates) I wouldn't wish on anyone. And with the developments in IT, will demand for travel rise as projected? There certainly isn't the demand on HS1, the channel rail link, that was first forecast. At least the UK government is going through the motions of consulting all those concerned and letting us have our say. Very sophisticated it is too with its website and pamphlets, statistics and maps, consultative tone. I'm afraid I remain sceptical though as to whether our voice really will be heard.  For more details see:
(Incidentally the photo of me on Facebook in a happy banzai pose a couple of years ago, has my upstretched arms along the proposed route.)

Yesterday was spent on a far more urgent task: the search for a hat. English wedding etiquette seems to demand some kind of headgear for the main wedding party. Indeed, specialist hat shops have sections catering for 'Mother of the Bride' and 'Mother of the Groom' My daughter Reiko and I scoured London's Oxford Street looking for the perfect hat. I tried on a Philip Treacy hat (many of the hats you saw at the Royal Wedding were his). It was wide-brimmed, worn on the diagonal, uplifting  - made me look 10 feet tall, definitely Mother of the Groom, but at 500 pounds (65,000 yen) a tad expensive. I tried on  'fascinators' galore, some no more than a flower in the hair, others delicate confections of lace and feathers. Utterly charming, but lacked the necessary presence. I have ended up with a small grey plate-like hat that sits jauntily to one side and is topped by a delicate arrangment of feathers and twirls. Not being used to wearing a hat, I'm a bit nervous. I feel silly but my daughter assures me that it is de rigeur and will not look out of place on the day. Wish me luck!

After the shopping an evening at the theatre to see War Horse. But first a bite to eat. An old haunt, Lowlanders in Drury Lane (Belgian beers on tap) was full so we popped round the corner to  32 Great Queens Street for crab on toast and a deliciously light green salad. (Lowlander user reviews) (32 Great Queen Street user reviews)

The show was extraordinary. Joey, young Albert's beloved horse, is sold into the army and goes to the front in the First World War. Albert enlists and goes after him. The battle scenes are gripping and a tribute to live theatre but it is the horses. They are puppets made of wood and leather, with three puppeteers as in bunraku (but wearing .flat caps and Edwardian working clothes). Like bunraku you soon forget they are there. The neighing of the horses, the movement of their ears and legs, the swishing of their tails - these full-size  horses are wonderful. Stephen Spielberg has bought the film rights.

So four more days in England. The wedding is on Friday and I leave on Monday.
Bye for now,

Meadow red with grass. To the right the dried up river bed of the winter flowing River Misbourne.

Washing hanging out to dry in the garden - joy!

Missenden Abbey, Great Missenden

Thursday, 21 July 2011

Never Give Up

I was walking to work this morning and was handed a pamphlet by a DPJ (the ruling party) city councillor looking for re-election in September. He'd made a 'radiation' map of the area around Koriyama station - 1.1 microsievert/hr in front of the station but only 0.35 in the arcade and 0.55 in front of the new hospital next to Usui department store. Also a flyer with various experiments he's tried: mixing zeolite in the soil, filtering water (though he reassures us there's no caesium in Koriyama water), and using a high pressure hose to wash the stuff away. This guy knows what's on our minds and how to get votes.

Tokyo Electric has announced that it has acheived Step 1 of its roadmap. In spite of frequent breakdowns the water processing system for the three reactors is working and water temperatures have stabilised at 100'C. The spent fuel pools in units 2 and 3 are fully stable and those in units 1 and 4 are 'more stable'. A metal roof has been put on top of unit 3 (just in time for the typhoon currently pounding the south of the country). Step 2 of the roadmap, cold shutdown, is hoped to be acheived by January or even by the end of this year. Concrete 'walls' are to be constructed deep underground to stop radioactive water seeping into the sea. The government is even beginning to talk about moving people back (90,000 evacuated). Once cold shutdown is achieved and there will definitely be no more explosions, people in the 20-30 km zone could go home once certain conditons are met: more monitoring, changing the soil and getting the infrastructure back to normal (no schools are open). One Minister even talked about getting us all to volunteer in the clean up (with the government providing money and know-how) so maybe the councillor's ideas are not that far-fetched.

The government passed the 2nd Supplementary Budget today, 2 trillion yen. That will give money to local authorities to deal with radiation and funding for new homes. There's a 3rd Supplementary Budget to be put before the Diet in September for a whopping 10 trillion yen and this is the one that will get the recovery going (rebuilding roads and ports, moving houses to higher land, rebuilding industry in the disaster areas).

The beef problem escalates. As of yesterday 578 cows that ate contaminated straw were sent to market between March and July and the beef sold (and eaten) all over the country. The most shocking thing is that these are not just cows near the reactor but in Kitakata, the Aizu area, which has not been affected so far. It seems that farmers were sent a fax on 22 March but the authorities were too busy after the quake to follow up. And the fax specified 'hay' but didn't mention 'rice straw'. So all Fukushima beef is currently banned. It's very damaging. Even people who want to support Fukushima are going to be put off by this and feel betrayed. Everything is too late, too vague. We need a quicker, stronger, more reliable response. Today comes the news that 19 cows in Miyagi and Iwate prefectures, a hundred miles away at least, fed local straw have been affected.

There's one thing I can't understand. On televison twice now I've seen the set up in Chernobyl (where people still live): there are simple measuring machines in every primary school and even in local markets. So you take your milk or apples or whatever and get them measured before you buy or eat them. Why can't we have those? Why do we only have expensive machines (the prefecture has just borrowed five). They're called  'germanium semi conductor detectors' and cost from 10 to 20 million yen apiece (75 - 150,000 GBP).

However, amid all the doom and gloom, people here,  especially the nation's women, have been inspired by the women's football team, Nadeshiko Japan, who won the World Cup in a thrilling final coming from 2-0 down to win  on penalties. People admire their team spirit and the fact that they never give up (akiramenai 諦めない).

As for me, I'm going to take a bit of a holiday. My younger son is getting married in England next week so I'm going to have a rest from all this and soak myself in the romantic idealism of youth. I'll let you know how I get on in God's own country.
All the best

Saturday, 16 July 2011

Good news and Bad news

Prime Minister Kan came to Koriyama today and met with local leaders. He told them that Step 1 of Tokyo Electric's schedule is more or less achieved (formal announcement tomorrow). This means cooling of all reactors is stable and there is no danger of an explosion (they've been injecting nitrogen into Reactor 3 to achieve this). Hosono, Minister of the Nuclear Accident, said they would start to think about allowing people in the 20 to 30 km area to return to their homes.

But there's a lot of cleaning up to do before they can go back. The beef problem gets worse and it now turns out that 84 cattle have been sent to market from farms which have been feeding contaminated rice straw to beef cattle. The rice straw has horrendous amounts of caesium which it seems to have soaked up from the rain that fell around 15 March. It's been found in farms as far away as Shirakawa (south of the prefecture, 80 kms from the plant), in Koriyama and Kitakata. Farmers had been told not to use hay but the message doesn't seem to have got through. There's a ban now on all beef from the prefecture.

Then there's the problem of sludge. Odei is not a word that was part of my vocabulary. It's a compound of two characters 'o' (汚)meaning 'dirty' and 'dei' (泥)meaning 'mud'. It refers to the radioactive sludge that's being found in large amounts in sewage works and incinerators. That that's got too high a count for making into concrete (what they usually do with it apparently) is just sitting there. No one wants it in landfill anywhere near them. The governor says he doesn't want it in Fukushima but no decision has been made as to what to do with it.

And finally, let me do my bit for Japan. The number of foreign tourists is down and tourist areas are suffering. The government has made this video featuring the pop group Arashi to promote tourism.

The British Open is on TV. Fog, wind, drizzle - it looks so nice and cool!

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Into Eternity

Dear Friends,
Have you seen this film/documentary? I saw it on Japanese TV in February, before the quake. If you get a chance, do watch it.

Finland has a law, the Nuclear Energy Act, that says nuclear waste must be disposed of within the country. So a huge underground storage facility is being built to keep the waste safe, deep underground and in Russian doll type containers, until it is no longer radioactive -  for 100,000 years. Yes, that's right. 100,000 years. It is mind-boggling.

For me, the most telling part was at the end of the film when psychologists are discussing whether to mark the site or not. Would people be able to read in 100,000 years? What language would they speak? Would they understand our symbols for 'Danger' or 'Radiation'? Human beings are curious creatures. If some sign were left, people would be tempted to look for 'buried treasure'. Best to leave the grave unmarked, to have the place forgotten. Forever.

This is the situation we are in. There's already a lot of nuclear waste in the world that needs dealing with. We shouldn't make any more until we've dealt with what we have - or have found a solution. Here's a link to the trailer for the film.

Prime Minister Kan today announced that Japan is going to wean itself off nuclear power. So that's a start. And Mr Son, head of Softbank mobile phone company, is going to cover the country in solar panels. But there's a lot of work to do yet to ensure that Japan makes a 'soft landing'.
Bye for now,

Monday, 11 July 2011

Hot, hot, hot

Dear Friends,
The rainy season's officially over (unusually short) and it is HOT. 35 degrees in Tokyo and Fukushima City, 32 degrees here in Koriyama and a sweltering 37 degrees in Kitakata. Then a thunderstorm in the evening (yudachi 夕立), the road turned to a river, the rain so heavy that those who wanted to go home couldn't leave and one salesman stuck in his car for twenty minutes outside the door before he dared dash inside.

It was too hot to think and I took my laptop downstairs to the main office to be in the air conditioning. But then the alarm on the electricity monitor went. We've set a voluntary peak target of 371 kWh (15% under last year's peak of 437 kWh) and every time it gets near this an alarm sounds. We switch off the air conditioner in the office and phone the factory to tell them to cut usage. Our peak is under 500 kWh so we're not liable for a fine but last month we overstepped out target twice which could have meant a fine of 2 million yen (over 15,000 GBP). In theory you get fined every hour you go over the limit so it's no wonder big companies are serious about cutting electricity usage.

This combination of stick, and an appeal for people to do their bit in this time of crisis seems to be working. In spite of the record heat today consumption in Tokyo was 88% of available power. It is amazing.

Bad news for Fukushima farmers and for Fukushima in general. Beef from 11 cows in Minami Soma (within the 30 km area) has been found to contain up to 2,400 bequerels of caesium/kilogram. That's five times the legal limit. The worrying thing is that the cows were 'screened' before being sent to market and nothing untoward was detected. Only when the meat was 'monitored' in Tokyo was the contamination discovered. So now we learn what these words mean. 'Screening' appears to mean moving a geiger counter over the live animal. Whereas, 'monitoring' means putting a piece of meat in an elaborate piece of equipment (looks a bit like a heavy oven) and measuring the radiation, a process which takes several hours. (It's the difference between external and internal radiation that we're all worried about. Not that anyone's going to eat us!)

The cause has been found to be rice straw that the farmer collected in April (prohibited) to mix with imported feed. And to make matters worse, meat had gone undetected last month from the same farm and has already been consumed in restaurants in Shizuoka and elsewhere.

The lists we see in the local paper everyday are for random samples that have been 'monitored'. Currently fruit and vegetables are clear but most fish seem to contain some caesium. Beef up to now has been clear.

This is a big blow for Fukushima. Just as we were getting consumer confidence back. The beef industry has said it wants every animal monitored. I guess there are lots of practical problems and this is easier said than done but traceability must be the aim. The livelihoods of so many people are at stake.

Four months today since the quake. The problems Japan faces are enormous. We need a strong leader to guide us out of this mess.

Goodnight from a very hot and sticky Koriyama,

Sunday, 10 July 2011


Dear Friends,
We had a big earthquake on Thursday night, half past three in the morning. My transistor radio (which I still carry with me all the time) said it was magnitude 5.6 off the Fukushima coast, Force 4 in Koriyama. It wasn't the usual rolling motion but a violent vertical shock followed by pronounced side to side movements. The building creaked but there was no obvious damage in the flat (a few cards fallen over, drawers open) but in the office next day I found a long crack on the stairway. I'd had it plastered and painted a month ago and the man did a good job so I'm pretty upset. Much merriment in the office as it became evident that people split into two camps: those who were woken by the quake and those who slept through it!

I haven't mentioned compensation up till now but since the papers are full of it, here's a synopsis. Tokyo Electric is about to give out its second payment to 160,000 people affected by the accident. Evacuated households were given an interim payment in May of 1 million yen (7,700 GBP) but this time it's to be per person - 100,000 yen (770 GBP) for each month evacuated up to 6 months. It's more popular as the previous method had seemed unfair on large families. People who were in evacuation shelters are getting additional compensation for stress. Farmers who couldn't sell their produce claimed compensation in the first round equivalent to half their gross profit to a maximum of 2,500,000 yen (19,000 GBP). But the JA is putting together new claims as they say this isn't enough. Fisheries and small businesses are all getting organised and putting in claims. The sums are enormous and no one yet knows how long it is going to go on for. Meanwhile, Tokyo Electric is running out of money and a new bill to set up a fund for compensation so the government will pay upfront and get the money back from Tokyo Electric later needs to come into law to speed things up.

Other bills before the Diet include one to get people who've lost their homes exempt from property tax (generous!) and a law to cancel outstanding housing loans if people take out a new loan so that they can get on with  rebuilding. Also, a bill to encourage the use of alternative energy, and the issue of government bonds to finance the whole thing. The lawmakers need to get their act together and pass these essential laws.

People affected by the disaster also received donations (gienkin 義援金) collected by the Red Cross and others amounting to a staggering 128 billion yen (1 billion GBP more or less). It's taken a while but most, though not all, has been distributed. (350,000 yen for relatives of someone dead or missing, same for a house destroyed or within the 30 km area).

There's also help for businesses and we're applying for a loan - no interest to pay for three years. To get that we needed to apply for a certificate to show we'd suffered damage (risai shomeisho 罹災証明書). Bills for repair work done and some photos were sufficient evidence.

One of my jobs this coming week is to get myself a similar certificate so I can travel on the expressways for free. (That shouldn't be a problem in view of the damage to this flat.) The city office has been flooded with applications so I've been waiting for the crowds to die down.

It was a hot day today, well over 30'C, and I went to Aizu to buy something special for son Tom's wedding.
Here are a few pictures.
Mt. Bandai from the train

There was a festival on, the Chinese lantern (Hozuki) festival -

in Nanuka-machi, the old shopping street

Only in Japan .... !

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Petty Scandals

Dear Friends
I wasn't going to do a post tonight but the twists and turns in the management of the crisis are fascinating. The Minister for the Recovery, Matsumoto, only lasted nine days. His attitude was appalling. He visited the governor of Miyagi but told him point blank (and on television) that the government would only help those who were willing to cooperate (he was referring to some fishing cooperatives who'd been objecting to the injection of private funding).  Then he went on to berate the governor for not being in the room first to welcome him. When he visited the governor of Iwate (who must have been briefed as he was waiting outside the building), Matsumoto arrived bouncing a football which he suddenly kicked at the governor who had to attempt an undignified (and unsuccessful) save. This high-handed manner used to be quite common among certain Japanese men but thankfully they're a dying breed. Matsumoto's attitude just served to underline the tremendous gap in attitude between the central government and the regions and yet again  the calibre of the people in this government. He's been replaced by his deputy, a Mr Hirano.  At least he's from the north (Iwate).

Further confusion over safety. After METI Minister Kaieda last weeek assured the people around the Genkai nuclear plant in Kyushu that the plant was safe and the government would take full responsiblity, today Prime Minister Kan announced that all nuclear plants would undergo stress tests. So is the Genkai plant safe or not? The local village is in favour (needs the cash) but the governor of the prefecture is not sure. Things have not been helped by the news that Kyushu Electricity instructed its sub-contractors to send e-mails and faxes in support of the reopening of the plant to a TV programme sponsored by METI to discuss the issue. Seems like the 'Atomic Village' is alive and well.

Nearer home, our company's sales for June were right on forecast. Is this a one-off or the start of the recovery? The final figures aren't in yet but things are looking better than they have since the disaster.

But with heavy rain (I've been soaked twice) and Force 5+ earthquakes in Wakayama (south of Osaka) on Monday and in Nagano 10 days ago, things are still unsettled.
Bye for now

Monday, 4 July 2011

Photo Series: Tokyo is "Saving Electricity"

A sequel to my son Takeshi's photo series of Koriyama when he visited Japan in June. This time it's a photo series from the Tokyo area:

Tokyo seemed much the same. At first glance, you don't notice much difference since the triple disaster of 3/11.  But when you look a bit closer, signs of the impact of electricity shortages are everywhere. These are photos I took on my visit to Japan in early June.

Narita Airport
Narita Airport felt a bit empty. Perhaps it was just the time of the day? The SAS flight from Copenhagen was only about a third full. So empty that we could stretch out and occupy entire rows of seats to sleep. Amongst the passengers, I noticed quite a few mixed marriage families. Perhaps returning home to Japan or visiting relatives? There were a few Japanese businessmen but the large Japanese tour groups were noticeably absent. Perhaps it was because it was a Thursday flight or perhaps they'd cancelled out of  self-restraint?

One of the elevators at Narita Airport was taken "out of service to save electricity effect investigating". They meant "out of service to investigate the effectiveness for saving electricity." 

The Japan Rail (JR) Narita Express that links Narita Airport to Tokyo Station was running on a reduced timetable to save electricity. The sign also warns that in the event of a planned electricity cut, the Narita Express may not run.

"Saving Electricity". This poster is everywhere in the stations across the Tokyo area. 

View from the Narita Express en route to Tokyo Station. Farmers are out tending their newly planted rice fields just like any other year. Even in the Narita area, there were houses topped with blue tarpaulins to cover up the damaged roof tiles. It's a testament to the strength of the earthquake.

Tokyo Station
Many of the short escalators in Tokyo Station were closed to save electricity. You have to walk up the stairs or find another escalator. I hauled my suitcase up the stairs. Thankfully, the long escalators were still going.

A peculiar feature of Japanese roadworks, however minor, is that you generally have a security guard waving you on or stopping you from crossing - just in case you stumble into the hole in the road. This guy's job in Tokyo Station was to wave his white gloved hands to approaching passengers to prevent them from going down the escalators behind him. He's also equipped with a megaphone to apologise for the inconvenience through his megaphone. It may be a job creation scheme, but it could have advantages. For example, it would make it expensive for construction companies to have idle road work sites as you see so often in the UK. Perhaps road works will get finished quicker? 

As well as stopping escalators, the lighting is reduced. Here, in the busy underground restaurant area under Tokyo Station, a sign announces "reduced lighting to save electricity". I didn't notice that it was any darker. Perhaps it's normally just unnecessarily brightly lit.

A gift store in Tokyo Station running a campaign "fair" in support of Tohoku (Northern Japan) as part of "Gambarou Nihon!" (let's get through this Japan!). Gambare/Gambarou is a slogan you see everywhere since the triple disaster of 3/11. It's one of those hard to translate Japanese catch phrases. Anyway, behind the guy walking past the store is a stand selling "Hagi no Tsuki", a speciality cake from Sendai, north of Fukushima. Sendai was hit by the massive tsunami after the earthquake and the people of Tokyo can feel that they've helped Tohoku with a bit of retail therapy.

Across Tokyo Bay in Chiba Prefecture, lights on the highway were turned off to save electricity.

Parts of Chiba were very badly affected, particularly Urayasu, the reclaimed land adjoining Tokyo. It's probably best known for Tokyo Disney Land. A massive 3/4 of Urayasu was affected by soil liquefaction (as reported by Nikkei 14 June 2011). During the earthquake, the unstable soil of the landfill became like liquid. This YouTube movie shows a building still on its foundation rocking like a boat as the soil turned into quicksand during the earthquake. You can see the extent of the damage in these pictures taken around Tokyo Disney Land. Disney fans will be glad to hear that Tokyo Disney Land didn't suffer from soil liquefaction because they had extra-compressed the soil before building. Wise move.

Life goes on in Tokyo 
In Fukushima, conversations quickly turn to the nuclear disaster. In Tokyo, conversations quickly turn away from the nuclear disaster.

Having spent a few days in Fukushima prefecture and talked to many people there, the nuclear disaster seemed to be all I could think of. But in Tokyo, things had moved on. Of course, everyone has their own stories of when the quake hit in Tokyo. It's something that everyone will remember: where they were when it hit, just like news of JFK's assassination. But life just goes on in Tokyo.

For kids in Tokyo, life is also back to normal. They don't have to wear masks nor long sleeves unlike their counterparts in Koriyama that I pictured in my last photo series. It's hard not to feel that there's some injustice in the situation. For years, the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plants had been exporting energy directly to Tokyo and now, power cuts aside, Fukushima is suffering the consequences of the accident...

4 July 2011: Typos, etc. corrected

Sato-san's blueberries

For the past couple of years I've joined a wonderful group of people helping plant and harvest rice in Hirata-mura, about 20 miles south-east of Koriyama. Sadly, Sato-san died last summer.  The rice growing has been contracted out to an organic farmer but a core of friends continue to look after the old farmhouse and a field of blueberries. I was invited to go this weekend but dithered on two counts. First, not being  shacho (CEO) of the company anymore I've lost use of the company car, and secondly, being exposed to all this radiation here in Koriyama I wasn't sure if I wanted to be outside all day working in the fields.

The first problem was solved by me getting a train on the Banetsu Tosen, a dinky little single track line that took me to Ono-machi (near the Abukuma Caves) where I met up with the rest for unagi (grilled eel) at a wonderful old restaurant. Delicious.  

It turns out that someone had been that very day to measure radiation levels in the blueberry field and levels were a mere 0.2 microsieverts/hr. That is remarkable. Hirata-mura is nearer the nuclear plant than we are but levels are so much lower. (Koriyama 1.2 today.) We now know that on 15 March when there was an explosion in Reactor 4 and a suspected explosion in Reactor 2 a plume was carried north over Iitate-mura (which has lately been evacuated), hit the mountains and veered west, over Date-city (where evacuations are now taking place) on to Fukushima city, then headed south towards Nihonmatsu and Koriyama. Where rain fell that day, the radioactive materials fell into the soil. More 'hotspots' as they are called are being identified every day and seem to coincide with areas of heavy rain.

But back to blueberries. Discussion as to what to do with the crop this year. Everyday the local paper prints the results of the prefecture's tests (and they're on the website). Currently fruit and vegetables (outside the 20 km restricted area and Iitate-mura) are in the clear although there is a ban on ume, sour plums, from Fukushima city and Date. All the people in the group were happy about eating the blueberries but some were uneasy about giving them away to their friends in Tokyo. People might be offended. I thought we should get them tested but that's easier said than done. The prefecture and JA do random tests but samples have to be sent to special laboratories and the testing takes time and there's a long waiting list. It's not as if you can turn up at the local JA agricultural coop and have your produce tested.

But having ascertained that radiation levels in the soil at least were low I spent a happy few hours this morning weeding and cultivating the blueberry patch.

Fukushima's had some high profile visitors this weekend. Hosono, the new Nuclear Accident Minister, did the rounds and has promised better monitoring and measures to deal with soil and sludge contamination. And Matsumoto, the new Minister for the Recovery met the governor and other local officials. So it looks like central government is at last listening to what we have to say.

Hosono said he's hoping that Step One of Tokyo Electric's schedule, stable cooling of the nuclear plant, will be reached by 17 July. But reactor 3 is not stable yet. A robot went in today with a hoover to clean up the dust but radiation levels are still far too high for people to go in.

Here are a few photos taken today.
Good night

The old farmhouse (minka 民家)

There were a lot of weeds

This is a mino-mushi. Mino is the word for those straw raincoats people wear in Hokusai prints. So this insect has made a little coat for camouflage. Pity it's a pest.

Saturday, 2 July 2011

Electricity Cuts

It's Friday, July 1st. A sweltering hot day and the first day of restrictions on electricity because of all the closed nuclear plants. Businesses whose peak usage is over 500 kW have to cut that peak by 15% between the hours of 9 am and 8 pm or face a maximum fine of 1 million yen (7,700 GBP). Hospitals are exempt and the rules are relaxed for makers of semi-conductors. Small businesses and homes are expected to cut consumption by 15% voluntarily.

Personally I think it's a bit rich that Fukushima is subject to these restrictions. After all, nobody's living in Namie, Tomioka, Oguma and the other places near Fukushima Daiichi so usage in the prefecture as a whole must be 15% down this year.

Our company's peak last year was 437 kW so we're not subject to the new restrictions but we've been instructed by Rengo head office to do what we can and we've submitted our targets to Tohoku Electric. I've been trying to get people to cut electricity usage for years from the point of view of global warming but without success. This time, they've come up will all sorts of ideas. In addition to the usual measures like switching off lights and removing fluorescent light tubes, they're staggering use of the different machines where possible, shift working over lunch time, doing the clearing (which in our factory means using air hoses) once the machine has stopped for set up between lots, and doing the crushing and baling of waste paper after the other machines have stopped. Ideas which would have been rejected a year ago as 'impossible' are now being implemented. Necessity is indeed the mother of invention.

I mention that it's Friday as the car industry has decided to work weekends and take Thursday and Friday off. This is an interesting experiment. Shopping centres are looking forward to more trade on weekdays but some parents are having difficulty finding nurseries to take their offspring at the weekends. Shops and restaurants near the closed factories are obviously losing business. Other companies in Tokyo are getting staff in early in the morning and sending them home at 1 pm before the afternoon peak. Young fathers seeing their kids during the week! This is far reaching social change.

Every night we're told how much electricity is available for the next day and throughout the day we're told how far off the peak we are. Today everybody cooperated and Tokyo was 81% off the peak. If it reaches 97% there'll be warnings and if it gets to 99% there'll be power cuts the next day.

Spent the day visiting customers, introducing the new CEO. Everywhere we went the lights are dimmed, coolers either off or on high temperatures. Zenno, the agricultural federation seem to think that fruit and veg production is back on track after the late start. We lost the month of May but hopefully the season will extend into September this year. Cherries for market doing well but nobody is visiting  'pick-your-own' tourist cherry farms. Peaches on track. (Fukushima is a big producer of white peaches, second after Yamanashi prefecture) though demand in the gift market is down due to the general economic malaise. We heard the same complaint from everyone we visited. The disaster produced special demand in the form of emergency goods, repairs to buildings etc. but that is disappearing and it's not clear yet if anything's going to take its place. Lots of uncertainty.

For those of you who're interested here are the words you hear all the time now. First, the word for cutting electricity usage, setsuden 節電. People are saying it's going to be a summer for cutting power: setsuden no natsu 節電の夏. Then the word for a power cut is  teiden 停電.

I haven't switched the cooler on once yet this season but it's pretty hot in here and hard to think. It's gone midnight. Tempting. Maybe just for ten minutes .....
But first a very goodnight to you all