It's hot. The mercury hit 40 degrees centigrade in Shikoku today and it's 33 degrees here in Koriyama. It's Saturday afternoon and even I have switched on the cooler.
I've been away so I guess the heat is getting to me. Maybe I'll have some more peaches. The Fukushima white peaches are so good. So good that every year the very best are presented to the Emperor. Here they pass fruit through a light sensor to measure the sugar content: the sweeter it is, the higher the price. According to the local paper, of 260,000 peaches passed through a light sensor 1,000 with a sugar content of 12% were selected and from these experts picked 180 perfect peaches. The Emperor and Empress are very popular here. They've just paid their third visit since the disaster. During a two day stay, they visited a factory in Iitate in the 'restricted residence' zone, and talked with peach farmers in an attempt to boost confidence in Fukushima fruit and veg.
Summer in Japan means Matsuri. Koriyama and Fukushima cities had their big festivals last weekend (on the same days - these two cities are so competitive) but it's the O-Bon holiday next week (13th to 15th) so there are still lots more festivals and firework displays to come.
In this region at O-Bon you visit the graves of the ancestors and this seems to be very important to people. Graves in the 'difficult to return' zone have been repaired and decontaminated and former residents (wearing white overalls) are being allowed in. People are also being allowed to stay at their homes in the 'restricted residence' zones for this period only.
For the kids, summer holidays should be about swimming and playing outside. But is it safe? Professor Takamura from Nagasaki University and an advisor to Fukushima Prefecture writes a column in the local paper once a week. He says that tests carried out in June and July of all school swimming pools, lakes and swimming beaches detected no radioactive material in the water and airborne radiation levels are generally below 0.1 μSv/hour. Even if a child swallowed water when swimming there is no risk of internal exposure, he says. He did say that there is a slight possibility of caesium being stuck to sand but you can wash this away by showering and washing the hair. Same for exercise. He says that if a child played outside in an area of 0.5 μSv/hour for two hours a day, that would be 40 μSv over the summer holidays, the equivalent of a chest X-ray. There are no radioactive materials in the air now so no danger of internal exposure from breathing. But like swimming, best to wash your hands and feet when you come home and shower and wash the hair at the end of the day. Likewise, rinse any cuts and grazes. The benefits of running around outside and getting Vitamin D from the sun outweigh any worries. Sorry this is a bit technical but it's practical advice and I thought I'd pass it on. Probably sensible advice, wherever you live in the world ...
Now if you'll excuse me, I'll go and get that peach ..