Yesterday, 5th May, was Kodomo no Hi, Children's Day and a national holiday. Girls Day is on 3rd March and this one is mainly for the boys. A Japanese helmet on display perhaps in the tatami room and for a very lucky little boy, carp streamers flying from a flagpole in the garden. Driving round the Koriyama countryside this holiday week I saw lots of these (koi nobori 鯉のぼり) though oddly hardly any in the Aizu area. I don't know the reason and neither did my friends. No kids? Custom dying out? Can't be bothered? Pity as the kids must love them and they're a joy to see. Around here you also see splendid banners (のぼり） made by craftspeople based in Sukagawa.
Sadly, the number of children in Japan is diminishing year by year with Fukushima seeing a big drop last year. Nationally the number of children (under 15) has been falling every year for the last 31 years. In Fukushima prefecture it has been falling about 2% a year but figures for 1 May this year are 15,494 down on the same date last year, a fall of 6%. Koriyama's seen the biggest drop - 3,800 less than last year. (And these figures don't include those who have moved away but have remained registered here.)
Although the authorities are doing their best to make the place child friendly through health checks, free medical care, free breast milk testing, the provision of indoor play facilities and community care, there's still so much uncertainty. The clean up hasn't really got going yet and it's not clear what's going to happen to the evacuated areas.
I know a few people who've put off starting a family for the time being and if this is a trend it will keep the figures depressed for a few more years yet.
May 5th was also a milestone in the nuclear saga. The last nuclear power plant (the Tomari plant in Hokkaido) was shut down for 71 days of routine tests, to be followed by 'stress tests'. Japan now has no nuclear reactors in operation - they used to supply nearly 30% of the nation's power. When will they re-open? The discussion goes on with no conclusion yet. The government is to announce a plan for supply and demand this next week and an energy saving appeal. It's going to be another hot summer.
|Koi-nobori carp streamers and banners at a farmhouse between Koriyama and Miharu a week ago.|