Wednesday 29 May 2013

Osaka and back

I went to Osaka for a meeting last Thursday and once again admired the Shinkansen bullet train which got us there in four hours. The journey on the fastest train, Nozomi, was smooth and not at all tiring, speeding from Tokyo to Osaka, a distance of 345 miles in two and a half hours. Someone was telling me about plans for a new line, the Linear Central Shinkansen, to join Tokyo and Nagoya but looping up through the mountains of Nagano and Gifu. It's a magnetic levitation (Maglev) system and the trains run at over 500 km (that's 310 miles) per hour. Unlike Britain, local authorities see the new railway as a golden opportunity and have been vying to attract the route and new stations. The route to Nagoya will open in 14 years time and in 30 years time you'll be able to travel from Tokyo to Osaka in one hour. Goodness.

Last week saw more in the unending saga of cock-ups and dearth of safety awareness in the nuclear industry - a Level 1 accident at a research centre in Tokaimura in neigbouring Ibaragi prefecture where 33 workers were exposed to radiation, and ventilation fans spewed the stuff outside.

But there is good news too. You remember the worst-case-scenario WHO report which got a bad reception here in February? Well, the UN Scientific Committee has brought out a more realistic report based on two years data which has concluded that no one in Fukushima has been exposed to more than 100 mSv, the threshold for cancer. A one-year old within the 30 km no-go zone who was evacuated would have been exposed to between 20 and a maximum of 82 mSv and is no danger of developing thyroid cancer.

The report also calculated the amount of radioactive material emitted from Fukushima (collective dose only one thirtieth that of Chernobyl) and concluded that Fukushima is not another Chernobyl. The draft report is being discussed at a conference this week and will be presented to the UN General Assembly in October. More here:
Asahi Shimbun: UNSCEAR Report

By a strange coincidence, my weekend away turned out to be a celebration of 80 year olds. Yuichiro Miura, alpinist and professional skier, successfully reached the summit of Mount Everest beating his own record as the oldest person to climb the peak. The friend I stayed with is 80. She goes to a computer class every week and her hobby is making DVDs from her archive of photos and music. Her latest project is to get her Esperanto class on Skype! She's worried that they're getting too decrepit to attend a weekly class so she's trying to organise the teacher and the others to group chat. On my way back on Sunday I stopped off in Yokohama to support dancer friend Bodypoet in a production called Node, Old Man of the Desert. The 'old man' was an 80 year old Butoh dancer (Yoshimoto Daisuke) who was thrown around quite violently. I was told that he was in great shape and no need to worry! So here's a toast to the hale and hearty octogenarians in this country of longest living people!
Bye for now

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