After that post last night about the plight of the evacuees I felt I needed to get out of town so went skiing to Inawashiro. Conditions were bad, strong winds and driving snow, but the place was full: kids snaking down the mountain in ski schools and snow boarders showing off. I even managed to ease my aching legs in a deep hot spring bath before I left. Perfect. Or so I thought. Got to the station and gales were causing long delays. Had to wait over an hour for the train which then limped to Koriyama. The thirty minute journey took two and a half hours.
But what of us two years on? Those of us who're not evacuated, not separated from our families, who're just getting on with life here in Fukushima. We've been through a lot and the anniversary brings it all back. I think we've done well. A friend said she thought people outside Fukushima were more worried than we are and I think there's some truth in that. That first summer was awful with the government telling us we were not at risk and the internet full of scare stories but we all in our various ways made an effort to understand radiation, rationalised the information and made our choices. People here are level-headed and just get on with things.
People who live here never say they're worried (I've noticed that parents don't like to mention 'radiation' in front of the children) but there is a word that crops up all the time in the media. 'Fuan' is the word 不安 and it means 'not at peace', 'worried'. It's not a particularly strong word, it rather denotes a general feeling of unease. The parks have been decontaminated - but just to be on the safe side parents take their children to play in the indoor play centres. All the houses in Kawauchi have been decontaminated and levels are lower than here in Koriyama - but only 40% of residents have returned to live as they're worried about radioactive particles blowing in from neighbouring woods and forests. Consumers use it. They know foods have been tested and are safe - but somehow there's that nagging fear. Machines were introduced, all food is tested but scientific data doesn't seem to be enough. With the drop in population people worry about Fukushima's future. Getting rid of these nagging doubts is going to take a while yet.
Some very good news just out which will go a long way towards allaying many parents' fears. All those up to the age of 18 are having their thyroids tested but since a survey of this kind has never been carried out before, there was some concern about small cysts that had been discovered in 40% of children. It was not known whether this was normal or not so a control group of over 4,000 children in Aomori, Yamanashi and Nagasaki (three different parts of Japan, all well away from Fukushima) was carried out and the results have just come out. The figures for Fukushima are actually lower than the control group (41.2% as against 56.6%) so parents don't need to worry on this score. Of course children will continue to be monitored.
It's going to be a long slog but hopefully more news like this will gradually appease people's fears both here and further afield.