Walking to work this morning amazed to see a London bus in Koriyama. A Routemaster, emblazoned with an advert for whisky. Come to think of it, this town’s gone London mad. Several of the hotels have a ‘London fair’ – fish and chips, sausages, roast beef!
It’s Saturday and a working day. Some weekends are free but the two companies I'm involved with only have 105 days off a year.
In the car, listen to a Tokyo University professor on the local radio, an expert on whole body counters. A year ago the experts wouldn’t give an opinion regarding our health as there was no data. But the whole body counters in Minami Soma Hospital now have results for 16,000 people and the machine in Hirata-mura has tested 20,000 people. What can he say from the results? First, that levels are going down. This time last year 60 out of 100 people tested positive, now the figure is down to 0.8 in a 100.
Asked why people in the same family eating the same food showed different results, he said that young children excrete caesium fastest. So a nine year old may have a higher reading than his younger sibling. Moreover, women seem to excrete it faster than men, probably because it collects in the muscle. So it’s common, apparently, for the wiry old grandad to register highest.
To those mothers panicking when they heard their child had 200 bq in the body, he pointed out that 200 bq is very low and on the margin of detectablilty for the machines. If a 60 kg person was exposed to 1mSv/year they would show 20-30,000 bq and the average in Japan in the 1960s, when everyone was exposed to fallout from American and Soviet nuclear tests was 500-600 bq.
Every day I drive about 20 minutes out of town to the Tohoku Kogyo box factory. Have an honorary position, not a lot to do, but I make sure I show up every day. Today took a walk round the factory. Weather warmed up at last so boxes for veg, particularly cucumbers, in production.
Then on to one of our copy shops. It specialises in plans for the construction industry so business has been slack since the disaster. But very busy today: surge in demand for private housing, particularly in Iwaki and Fukushima. I’m there to do the books and not much help.
Then back into town and my real office. But before that, I pop into the Big Eye building just opposite. There’s a seminar on radiation organized by the Japanese Society of Radiation Safety Management. About 80 people there, lots of spare seats. It’s quite technical. Conclusion seems to be that there’s now lots of monitoring equipment in place (for air, food and for people) so no need to worry. Seminars like this being held everywhere. But most people there seemed to be headed for the ‘Tanabata’ event in the planetarium on the 23rd Floor. Beautiful day. Rainy season but no rain and quite dry. Definitely a much better way to spend a Saturday afternoon.
Nationally, the Friday night anti-nuclear demo outside the PM's residence was bigger than ever. First popular movement for 50 years, they say. Electric companies' shareholders' meetings held last week. TEPCO meeting attended by Vice-Governor of Tokyo and Kanden meeting by Osaka Mayor Hashimoto. Both proposed motions for moving away from nuclear and for deeper cuts but all rejected. However, TEPCO has said it is withdrawing from a consortium to build nuclear plants in Vietnam.
Shall resist the temptation to try Koriyama's fish and chips. I'm going to England myself next week and can have the real McCoy.