Monday, October 10, 2011

Tokyo under illusion that things are normal while Fukushima remains a war zone - 10th Oct 2011

We are well into autumn. And despite the growing sense in the Tokyo metropolitan area that things are now all right -- with train services back to pre-disaster schedules and the regret we once felt over our wasteful consumption of electricity dissipating -- Fukushima remains a war zone.

It was reported on Oct. 7 that the Watari district of Fukushima was not designated by the government as a "specific evacuation recommendation spot."

The following day, at an information session held for local residents at Watari Elementary School, participants demanded to know why their district was excluded from the list when it was a dangerous place for children to be, to which a government official responded: "It's not a final decision."

While this battle was taking place, I went to visit Watari residents Chieko Tanji, 64, and her husband, Hiroshi, 63, to hear about their personal battles with radiation and decontamination.

Once a week, the couple, who run a cafe in the district, put on long-sleeved work clothes and 3M-Sumitomo dust masks to scan their property for high levels of radiation, using a U.S.-made Geiger counter and a Chinese-made radiation dosimeter.

The Tanjis often find high radiation levels under the gutters, and scrape off any accumulated dirt and dust. They climb onto the roof, which they sweep with a broom, and remove the trash and leaves that have collected in the gutters. They also diligently trim the greenery in their yard that prior to the nuclear disaster, they'd allowed to grow freely.

"We wish we could count on the government to do something, but we've realized that we can't wait for their instructions. We have to listen to what other people have to say, do our own research, and make our own decisions," Hiroshi said. "I think it'll take 100 years before everything is clean again. Read More