I filed my tax return today. They have a good system here. I went to a big hall filled with computers and numerous tax office staff who come running when you raise your hand with a question. It's all a ploy to get you used to filing online (which I shall do next year) and they are ever so friendly and helpful. 11 March 2011. That's what I was doing - trying to file my tax return. Undeterred, I remember taking a paper version into the tax office on 15 March, the deadline. I remember feeling numb, in shock, as I handed the paper over. The official seemed equally dumbstruck to see me - I didn't know the deadline had been extended. Last year the hall was bedlam as people tried to work out how the disaster had affected their tax position what with buildings destroyed, loss of earnings, grants, compensation etc. This year there were queues but the Japanese are so good at dealing with a lot of people in an orderly way. The proceedings were very well organised, efficient, and polite
Two years already. The papers and TV carry special features; memorial services are being held, some even within the exclusion zone. The prefecture is holding a service on Monday 11th in Fukushima City and there'll be condolence books to sign and live transmission around the prefecture. I'll be at work on the day but I've been wondering how I should mark the anniversary.
I could go out to Iwaki on Saturday night and watch the sunrise from the beach on Sunday morning. It's an event planned by Shimomura Mitsuko. She's the lady who persuaded the Dalai Lama to come to Koriyama over a year ago. She used to work for Asahi Shimbun and she's a descendant of a Nihonmatsu samurai family.
Or there's a pop concert on Monday 11th at Koriyama Women's College, Fukushima Soul, but applications for the 1,800 free tickets have already closed. Anyway, I'm probably a bit old for that.
There are anti-nuclear demonstrations planned in Fukushima, Tokyo and around the world, and demonstrations calling for the prosecutors to press criminal charges against those responsible for the accident. But I think I'll give those a miss.
I'll probably just take in the candlelight lanterns in the square round the station. They did this last year and it was beautiful. People, young and old, have been decorating the special paper which will be made up into lanterns. They call the event 'Spring Fireflies' after the 'Autumn Fireflies' festival held in September in the village of Ebine not far from Koriyama. They've been making the paper there for centuries out of a local bark. (Incidentally, the village is also known for its freeze dried tofu. It used to look very picturesque with strings of tofu plaited in straw hanging out under the eaves in winter in the freezing cold - but I don't suppose they're doing that now since the accident. Ebine is also the village where my mother-in-law used to go during the war to barter her kimono for food to feed her large family and staff.)
Those traumatic early days seem a long time ago now and in some ways we don't want to remember but it is a chance to pause and reflect and we'll all be doing that on the day. Wherever we are.