Monday 30 January 2012

This and That

It's been a funny few days. At the end of last week a Tokyo University professor announced that  the odds of a big earthquake occurring in Tokyo had increased since 3.11 and there is now a 70% probability of a Magnitude 7.00 earthquake striking within the next four years. Then on Saturday morning there was a series of earthquakes over 20 minutes at the foot of Mount Fuji  (Magnitude 5.5). Everyone of course thinks Mount Fuji is waking from its 300 year sleep but  the experts assure us that the tremours are not connected with volcanic activity. Then there was a big tremour in Kyushu. Certainly since the March quake, the geology has changed (some parts of northern Japan have moved 5 metres east, trig points are having to be moved and contour lines on maps re-drawn) and the number of (after)shocks has increased many times over. Wierd and wonderful deep water fish are leaving the sea bed and getting caught. Whales are being washed up in New Zealand (Japan and NZ are on the same plate). If it really is only aftershocks then that's OK. But it's unnerving.

Then today the news that on current trends the population of Japan in 50 years time (2060), is forecast to be two thirds what it is now (from 128 m to 87 m) with 40% of the population over 65. That means each working person would have to support one oldie (half their salary in insurance!). Open the doors and let immigrants in, I say, (England currently has a shortage of primary schools) but the state here is not so welcoming.

Amidst all this we have discussions in parliament to raise the consumer tax (VAT) from 5% to 10%. The pledge was to use it all for welfare but it's getting watered down. And anyway there'll still be a shortage and more burden on the deficit (currently 200% of GDP).

You can see why people are worried. In addition, distrust of central government is widespread. There's been too much back tracking, too many disclosures after the event. Ishihara Shintaro, Tokyo mayor, the one who sent the fire engines to douse Fukushima Daiichi and the only person so far to accept debris from the disaster areas, has vowed to start a new party. If young Hashimoto in Osaka and tax-cutting Mayor of Nagoya Kawamura join him, we could see change from the provinces. It seems to be our only hope at this stage.

But enough of national affairs. I am very happy. I have a new front door. Still a mess at the back of the apartment as repairs continue but I no longer have to duck under the support put in a week after the earthquake to keep the door frame intact. However, after 10 months ducking, I find it hard to walk straight through the door!

Top temperature in Koriyama today minus 1.6'C. Snow has put a stop to the clean-up. Pipes at Fukushima Daiichi frozen and reports of leakage. But only water that's been treated and is clean, we're told. So nothing to worry about.
Good night

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