Sunday 6 January 2013

Happy New Year!

After two weeks in England happily inundated with family I arrived at Haneda at 5:00 am on Friday morning. It was dark but after a smooth transition on Japan's wonderful trains I was rewarded by this view of Mount Fuji, pink in the dawn, from the bullet train heading north.

Yesterday, Saturday 5th, was the first day back at work for Tohoku Kogyo. Started with the customary ceremony at the Shinto shrine in the grounds of the factory. Shinto priest specially called in to say prayers for safety, the staff lined up in the cold. Everyone bowing and wishing each other a happy new year. It's very formal. Caught offguard at the pool last night. The lifeguard came over and starting bowing. I'd just settled into the jacuzzi and had to feign a dignified bow in my swimsuit.  

Hungry for news about the new government. Admittedly I was confined to the kitchen for most of my stay in England and brain dead in the midst of the festivities but there was hardly any news about Japan on mainstream UK media. I had to wait until I got back to find out who is in Abe's Cabinet. Our local MP, Nemoto, has been appointed Minister of the Recovery. The new Recovery Ministry hasn't turned out to be the one-stop shop it was supposed to be, dogged by departmentalism between the various ministries who are unable to decide things without a precedent. Nemoto is an experienced politician and it's hoped he will have the clout to cut through the red tape. In his time out of office he worked with the city of Koriyama negotiating funding after the disaster so he has experience in this area. Another Fukushima MP, Mori Masako, has been appointed Minister in charge of Consumer Protection and the Declining Birthrate. She's already done a lot of work on certification of agricultural and industrial products from Fukushima and she's promised to speed up the thyroid tests for children. Ishihara, son of the former Tokyo Mayor, is Minister of the Environment and has said he will not set deadlines for the construction of the radioactive waste interim storage facility but will take time consulting with residents. So that's a welcome development. People here are not so happy though with Abe's veto of the previous government's policy to have no nuclear plants by 2030. He says he wants to spend more time considering the issue. I was also surprised to find that Kaieda is the new leader of the ousted Democratic Party of Japan. He was Minister of Trade and Industry at the time of the disaster and didn't get a very good press what with all the disclosures about the cozy 'nuclear village' set up. I guess the bright young things in the DJP are keeping their powder dry for next time. Kaieda did admit he was 'picking a hot chestnut from the fire'  ( 火中の栗を拾う kachu no kuri o hirou) Pick up a hot potato, in English?

By the way, Haneda airport was great. A beautiful and innovative building, and so close to Tokyo compared with Narita. And I can recommend the hot spring theme park (Oedo Onsen Monogatari). Great fun.

Already it's nearly two years since the disaster. 2011 seemed to pass in slow motion but this last year has flown by. Let's hope this new year brings real progress in sorting out the future of the evacuees.
Love to you all

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