Friday 20 September 2013

Veni, vidi, non vici

There was a big earthquake in the middle of last night. Force 5 at the coast, Force 4 here in Koriyama. A long, low grumble. According to this morning's news, it was an aftershock from 3.11 and we are urged to remain vigilant. Quite frankly there's not a lot you can do when you're woken up at half past two in the morning. Wait for it to end, turn over and go back to sleep. I do have my emergency rucksack packed ready, I've stockpiled two weeks supply of food and water, and I keep the bath full. But I don't sleep in my clothes as I did that first month. 

The Prime Minister visited Fukushima Daiichi yesterday. I saw the cavalcade at Koriyama station yesterday morning as I was waiting for the bus. He's made the monumental decision to urge Tepco to scrap Reactors 5 and 6. Blindingly obvious, I should say. What took him so long? It would be hard to operate these reactors normally while the difficult work of clearing up the damage to Reactors 1 to 4 is carried out, and where radiation levels in some places are extremely high. And socially, the people of Fukushima would never accept it. The governor continues to press for a decision to scrap Fukushima Daini nuclear plant, 11 kilometers to the south, but no word on that yet.

So He came (along with members of the foreign press), He saw and tried to show the world that he's fulfilling the promises he made at the Olympic presentation in Buenos Aires. But the local press weren't allowed into the press conference 'for reasons of space'. Maybe they'd ask too many tricky questions about the leakage of contaminated water into the sea, and voice the fury of the local fishing community.

More important than Abe's 'performance' is the work going on in Tokyo to draft new legislation delineating the responsibilities of the power companies and the state in the nuclear power industry. This is the crux of the problem. Japan has always maintained that the electric companies take care of everything but it's now obvious that a single private company cannot sustain the costs of an accident. Abe has said that the government will step in but there's still a lot of work in the detail.

The government and bureaucracy may be overpaid and useless (common grouch in this country) but the private sector can be outstanding. How's this for an example? On Tuesday I came back from Tokyo and left my cardigan on the shinkansen bullet train. At 3:30 pm I reported it to the Lost Property office in Koriyama. At 7:00 pm I got a phone call saying the garment had been found. Did I want to go to Sendai to pick it up or have it sent to me paying postage on arrival (chakubarai 着払い)? I chose the latter option and at 10:00 am on Thursday the package arrived (I paid 740 yen). Is there any other country so efficient or so trusting?

Last weekend the country was lashed with heavy rain from a typhoon. It cleared the air and now we have glorious autumn weather. 
All the best

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