Sunday 10 July 2011


Dear Friends,
We had a big earthquake on Thursday night, half past three in the morning. My transistor radio (which I still carry with me all the time) said it was magnitude 5.6 off the Fukushima coast, Force 4 in Koriyama. It wasn't the usual rolling motion but a violent vertical shock followed by pronounced side to side movements. The building creaked but there was no obvious damage in the flat (a few cards fallen over, drawers open) but in the office next day I found a long crack on the stairway. I'd had it plastered and painted a month ago and the man did a good job so I'm pretty upset. Much merriment in the office as it became evident that people split into two camps: those who were woken by the quake and those who slept through it!

I haven't mentioned compensation up till now but since the papers are full of it, here's a synopsis. Tokyo Electric is about to give out its second payment to 160,000 people affected by the accident. Evacuated households were given an interim payment in May of 1 million yen (7,700 GBP) but this time it's to be per person - 100,000 yen (770 GBP) for each month evacuated up to 6 months. It's more popular as the previous method had seemed unfair on large families. People who were in evacuation shelters are getting additional compensation for stress. Farmers who couldn't sell their produce claimed compensation in the first round equivalent to half their gross profit to a maximum of 2,500,000 yen (19,000 GBP). But the JA is putting together new claims as they say this isn't enough. Fisheries and small businesses are all getting organised and putting in claims. The sums are enormous and no one yet knows how long it is going to go on for. Meanwhile, Tokyo Electric is running out of money and a new bill to set up a fund for compensation so the government will pay upfront and get the money back from Tokyo Electric later needs to come into law to speed things up.

Other bills before the Diet include one to get people who've lost their homes exempt from property tax (generous!) and a law to cancel outstanding housing loans if people take out a new loan so that they can get on with  rebuilding. Also, a bill to encourage the use of alternative energy, and the issue of government bonds to finance the whole thing. The lawmakers need to get their act together and pass these essential laws.

People affected by the disaster also received donations (gienkin 義援金) collected by the Red Cross and others amounting to a staggering 128 billion yen (1 billion GBP more or less). It's taken a while but most, though not all, has been distributed. (350,000 yen for relatives of someone dead or missing, same for a house destroyed or within the 30 km area).

There's also help for businesses and we're applying for a loan - no interest to pay for three years. To get that we needed to apply for a certificate to show we'd suffered damage (risai shomeisho 罹災証明書). Bills for repair work done and some photos were sufficient evidence.

One of my jobs this coming week is to get myself a similar certificate so I can travel on the expressways for free. (That shouldn't be a problem in view of the damage to this flat.) The city office has been flooded with applications so I've been waiting for the crowds to die down.

It was a hot day today, well over 30'C, and I went to Aizu to buy something special for son Tom's wedding.
Here are a few pictures.
Mt. Bandai from the train

There was a festival on, the Chinese lantern (Hozuki) festival -

in Nanuka-machi, the old shopping street

Only in Japan .... !

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