Sorry to have been off the wire for a while. I've been mega, mega busy. I'm in the process of closing down a subsidiary, twelve staff, three shops. The shop in Utsunomiya, an hour south of here is closed, and the shops in Koriyama and Sendai are to be taken over on Thursday (1 November ) by existing staff. Two men in their fifties are looking for work (not something I'm proud of), and one lady decided to retire but the others keep their jobs. Yours truly has been negotiating contracts - from machinery to coffee machines - and shifting 10 years worth of records which I'm told we have to keep.
Drove up to Sendai today and that inspired me to write. It was good to get out of town. The weather is glorious - blue skies, sunshine, mild - (our reward for getting through that long hot summer) and the hills a patchwork of autumn colour.
There are two words you hear a lot these days here in Fukushima, both containing this character 風. On its own it's the word for 'wind' - kaze. Put with other characters it's pronounced 'fu'. So we have fuhyo (風評) literally, reputation of the wind, or rumour. And fuhyo higai (風評被害) the damage caused by rumours, or perhaps we should say 'loss of consumer confidence' which remains a big problem here.
I was at a conference of business people earlier in the week and the chairman of the company which runs the Hawaiian Centre, a spa complex in Iwaki, was saying that although turnover this summer was back up to 90% of pre-disaster levels, that was due to promotions and stupendous efforts on the part of all involved. Their core customers, families in the Tokyo area, are still reluctant to come to Fukushima (back up to only 60% ). The guy who runs the castle in Aizu was saying the same thing: tourism in Aizu only 70-80% of what it was. There was also a man from a company making precision machinery and he said sales were back up to 80% of pre-disaster levels. But all three were of the mind that the difference had to made up by their own efforts and by creating new business and that what they'd lost in terms of buildings and a terrible balance sheet was made up for through a sense of purpose and working together they'd got from their experiences.
But back to the other 'wind' word which was new to me. Fuka 風化, literally 'changing with the wind' which when I looked it up in the dictionary means 'weathering, erosion'. But it's used here in the sense of people getting used to Fukushima, forgetting Fukushima. Another speaker at that conference made the point that an ongoing scandal about government funds earmarked for the recovery being used for non-related projects was the result of fuka, a lack of urgency and comittment to the recovery.
Imagine the interest then in the news that 80 year old Ishihara resigned as Mayor of Tokyo on Thursday and is to form a new party. This has really got people talking. He's a man of action, charismatic. Could he lead this country out of its current slough? Things are getting interesting.
As an aside, out of 540 people at that conference, I counted only 5 women including me. A sea of besuited men. The Buddhist priest (and literary prizewinner) who gave the opening speech made a comment to the effect that you don't often see so many men except at yakuza events which was rather daring. I don't think it went down well though I thought it was hilarious.
So I'm back to writing the blog - doing my bit to stop interest in Fukushima waning. Bear with me just another week and hopefully I'll have more time to do it properly.
In the meantime, thanks for reading this.