Friday 17 August 2012

O-bon Holiday

Six days holiday here for the o-bon festival. It's a time when families get together. There's a big exodus from Tokyo, traffic jams on the expressways. I took three days off to stay with friends in Kitakata. Avoided the expressways (which as well as being crowded I have to pay for) and took the tourist roads over the mountains which have been kept toll-free to encourage visitors. Over the Bonari Line, then up to Ura Bandai, round the lakes, dropping down the other side into Kitakata. Great to get out of Koriyama. The scenery such a rich, lush green.

My friends don't have air-conditioning so it was summer as it used to be: the whirring of electric fans, the scent of mosquito coils, the drone of cicadas in the trees outside, watermelon, and a festival (where do they get their energy?). We visited the Yauemon sake brewery, always a pleasure, and joined a short guided tour learning more about making sake.  We visited some shrines and temples including Nakata Kannon where you can put your arms round a wooden pillar and pray that when your time comes you'll have a swift and trouble free death. Didn't try it as friend swears an acquaintance did it and dropped dead that very night! Discover that we've now done all six must-see temples in the area (会津六詣で Aizu Roku Moude). Tourist places seemed busy and back to normal though we were told that weekdays are quiet.

Had a comment on my last post: if we in Koriyama are exposed to more than 1 mSv/year and are 'under observation', what about people overseas? First, you have to understand that the 1 mSv/year is for airborne radiation only. Before the accident, levels in Koriyama were 0.06 μSv/hour which internationally is very low and works out at 0.52 mSv/year. The figures for the UK (according to the HPA data) are 1.3 mSv/year UK average and a whopping 7.8 mSv in Cornwall. The sievert is supposed to calculate the effect of different kinds of radiation on the body but there's a nagging fear that radioactive particles from the accident may be more harmful than naturally occurring radioactivity from building stone and radon gas. I don't know if this fear is justified or not.  Coincidentally, Fukushima University which is coordinating the questionnaires sent out last summer, has just published its second report. It doesn't give figures for Koriyama as such, but for this area (県中)51% of people are estimated to have been exposed to below 1 mSv/year and 44% between 1 and 2 mSv/year. The report as a whole says there's no danger to health. 

Total exposure (2.7 mSv in UK and 6.2 mSv in US) refers to all types of exposure: that's external from the air, internal from food and breathing, medical, air travel etc. But as you say, what levels are safe? It does seem that the ICRP recommendation of 1 mSv/yr is too low.

The response to the questionnaire mentioned above has been low - only 450,000, or 22%. I find this hard to understand. I was quick to fill mine in and send it off but it seems most people can't be bothered. They must think they're alright.

The Olympics are over, O-bon is over, and it's back to work tomorrow. Seems like the end of the summer. 

Drumming festival in Kitakata
Kokoro Shimizu Hachiman Shrine
In Ura Bandai today (with my friend's husband)
Anyone know what this is? 

1 comment:

  1. Here is the answer to the question about the flower from my friend Kinuko:
    It is a kind of lily called “Uba-yuri” 姥百合 (scientific name:、Cardiocrinum cordatum). Its leaves wither and fall down before its full bloom so, named Uba-yuri 姥百合、(葉無しー 歯無しのおばあさん(姥)みたい-(toothless old woman ). It’s a sorry name for a lovely flower, isn’t it ?
    The withered up flower, fruit is a popular material for a dry flower arrangement.
    Thanks, Kinuko!