Tag Archives: radiation in Fukushima

Tokyo is surreal: from radiation in tap water to shopping for fashion

Tokyo is surreal: from radiation in tap water to shopping for fashion

Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

Seijo Train Station in Tokyo -  Modern Tokyo Times image

Seijo Train Station in Tokyo – Modern Tokyo Times image

The situation in Tokyo is surreal at the moment because on the one hand you have trendy ladies shopping in the capital but on the other hand you have reports about radiation in tap water.  It is difficult to fathom what reality is at the moment because some people feel deeply anxious while others are just getting on with life and enjoying the usual luxuries that Tokyo provides.

During March 23 you could feel the power of further earthquakes in the Fukushima region in the morning but is seems so natural these days because of the frequency.  It is factual that Japan is hit by earthquakes throughout the year but many are minor and cause no damage; however, since March 11 it appears that it is never ending.

The earthquake of March 11 caused fear and alarm in Tokyo and this was despite escaping relatively unscathed unlike the tragic tragedy which hit Fukushima, Iwate, Miyagi, and other coastal regions in this part of Japan. 

However, the recent earthquakes in Fukushima and so many other places are not creating the same fear because they are not so potent and destructive.  Also, the 9.0-magnitude earthquake which struck on March 11 is very rare and the tsunami it unleashed was beyond my imagination.

Yet the daily tremors are adding to the surreal nature of life in Tokyo because each tremor reminds you about the tragedy of Fukushima, Iwate, Miyagi and coastal regions which were hit by the tsunami.  However, when you visit the centre of Tokyo you see people shopping, buying new fashion clothes, eating out, chatting with friends, and the usual things that happen during times of normality.

One minute I am in Lumine in Ikebukuro and browsing around many fashion shops and the next minute I am checking my computer and reading about radiation in tap water in Tokyo.  At the same time I meet a client who is a little anxious but the next client cares little and says that things will get back to normal.

Therefore, confusion reigns and this applies to over-hype and under-hype and the Fukushima issue is the same.  The British Embassy in Tokyo issues directives which state that currently the situation in Fukushima is not dangerous to Tokyo.  However, other embassies have told or warned their nationals about the threat of radiation and other side effects from the earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear plant crisis in Fukushima.

Officials today announced that tap water is unfit for babies because the radioactive iodine level in parts of Tokyo, have reached around twice the recommended safety level.  Therefore, this news will set off new alarm bells to parents with babies and the knock on effect will generate fresh fear in some adults.

Of course the situation in Fukushima is much more dangerous and officials have announced that certain vegetables must be avoided.  It is difficult to know if this announcement is based on real heightened concerns or if it is a precautionary measure because the pundits once more appear to have “no single voice.”

In Fukushima the radioactive iodine is around three times the usual level and this applies to the exclusion zone part of Fukushima.  While contamination outside the 20km zone applies to milk and some vegetables but according to government officials the current levels do not pose a threat to health

Ibaraki is also causing concerns and milk and parsley have been forbidden from being sent to the open market.  While in Fukushima local producers have been told to keep their goods and not to send them to market because of radiation factors. 

Yukio Edano, the Japanese Cabinet Secretary, commented that “Even if these foods are temporarily eaten, there is no health hazard.” 

“But unfortunately, as the situation is expected to last for the long term, we are asking that shipments stop at an early stage, and it is desirable to avoid intake of the foods as much as possible.”

The government is also trying to make it clear that safety limits for radiation is extremely low and because of this it is essential that people do not come up with exaggerated claims or fears. 

However, several nations are worried about the radiation factor and possible contamination therefore different nations are responding to the ongoing crisis in Fukushima. 

The United States announced that milk, milk products, fresh fruits and vegetables are to be stopped from entering the market of America and this applies to four prefectures in Japan.  The prefectures that have been listed are Fukushima, where the nuclear crisis is ongoing, Gunma, Ibaraki and Tochigi. 

Other nations have also issued statements related to Japanese food imports. Nations in northeast Asia have began rigorous checks and the ongoing crisis in Fukushima is clearly going to be detrimental to local producers of food and other goods which are generating concerns.

However, turning back to Tokyo and the surreal nature of life it often appears that nothing ever happened to Japan.  This applies to ladies dressed amicably, fashion stores being full of shoppers, watching children playing football or baseball, and enjoying a cup of coffee in Seijo and a delicious chocolate cake.

Also, while residents in Fukushima are worried about radiation and eating local produce I have just entered the Odakyu Ox shop in Seijo, Tokyo.  All around I can see high quality produce in the supermarket and happy shoppers.

Shopping in Odakyu Ox in Seijo, Tokyo - Modern Tokyo Times image

Shopping in Odakyu Ox in Seijo, Tokyo – Modern Tokyo Times image

Life is certainly surreal because while Seijo in Tokyo is a wealthy area I know full well that around half a million people have been made homeless by the destructive earthquake, tsunami and nuclear crisis in Fukushima.

I also know that so many people are in shellshock in Fukushima, Iwate, Miyagi, and in coastal areas of other prefectures which were hit by the earthquake and tsunami on March 11.  Therefore, you have mass numbers of grieving people and of course some towns and villages have been erased from the map along the coast. 

The surreal nature of events can be found in the reality that while thousands of bodies are still missing in the worst hit areas of Japan; it is business like usual for millions of other people and buying the latest fashion brands in high quality shops can be seen all over Tokyo.   (Good photo images of Seijo)    (Seijo Shopping Centre


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Fukushima and the radiation crisis continues to ebb and flow

Fukushima and the radiation crisis continues to ebb and flow

Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

Panic Buying caused by Fukushima, the earthquake and tsunami

Panic Buying caused by Fukushima, the earthquake and tsunami

The nuclear plant in Fukushima continues to ebb and flow from optimism to fear and many experts are saying different things.  This is leading to greater panic in the Fukushima region and further afield, for example many people in Tokyo are worried and the same applies to other prefectures like Kanagawa, Saitama, and a host of other prefectures, which are concerned about current events.

Between March 15th and March 16th several strong earthquakes have been felt in Shizouka and in the Pacific just off Chiba and both reached the magnitude of 6.0.  At the same time people in Sendai, which was badly hit by the original earthquake and the tsunami which followed, are worried about the effects of radiation.

This applies to the wind and the fear of rain carrying radiation.  Therefore, nature is once more adding to the sense of uncertainty because if radiation outputs did increase and the wind was strong and rain began to fall, then the crisis and alarm bells would ring even louder.

The government of Japan and some experts are stating that radiation is not so serious because the radiation amount is too low and people should not worry.  Despite this, the psychological nature of radiation is creating fear and uncertainty, even if this is based on wrong information it is difficult to calm the nerves of many people.  Therefore, the ongoing uncertainty in Fukushima is spreading to other parts of Japan and the government which is giving daily updates, appears to have a strong battle on its hands in order to win over the people of Japan.

I reside in Tokyo and empty supermarkets and a strange quietness can be felt and many people are rushing home from work or hoarding food.  This does not apply to all Tokyoites and many are putting a brave face on and getting on with life.

Apparently the government of France is telling its nationals who reside in Tokyo to either return to France or to move to southern areas in Japan.  Also, other reports have stated that some foreign nationals are leaving Tokyo because fear and uncertainty appears to have got the better of them.  I, and other international citizens, have no intention of leaving Tokyo because Japan is our home and people need to pull together and get a sense of reality.

It is difficult to comprehend that tens of thousands have been killed in Iwate and Miyagi because of the earthquake and tsunami which struck so violently; and then equate this with the relative safety of Tokyo.  Therefore, the general public and some foreign nationals in Tokyo appear to be in “a panic bubble” while the reality is that tens of thousands have died in Iwate and Miyagi.  

Latest news about Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant is that radiation levels did increase dramatically and staff had to be evacuated because of precautionary measures and to protect the workers from radiation contamination.  Yukio Edano, Chief Cabinet Secretary, is giving many briefs about the ongoing crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant and it is clear that radiation levels are ebbing and flowing by the hour. 

Explosion at Fukushima nuclear plower plant

Explosion at Fukushima nuclear plower plant

Tokyo Electric Power Co. gave information about a fire breaking out at No. 4 reactor of the Fukushima No 1 nuclear power plant on March 16th in the morning.  This followed on from a hydrogen explosion which happened the day before near the same location.

Yukio Edano stated that radiation levels had fallen from 1,000 millisieverts during the morning of March 16th to between 600-800 millisieverts.  He added that this was still high and over the usual average and that “workers cannot carry out even minimal work at the plant now. Because of the radiation risk, we are on standby.”

Yukio Edano also commented that “A part of the containment vessel is broken and it seems like the vapor is coming out from there. So… [it] appears to be that vapor is coming out from the broken part.”

The nuclear crisis in Fukushima is ongoing and just like the radiation levels which are ebbing and flowing, the same appears to apply to hourly information.  Different news agencies and experts appear to either be talking up events or talking down events and you have a lot of confusion and this is leading to panic in parts of Japan.

Meanwhile, the reality of the earthquake and tsunami is still coming to light and it emerged today that the fate of Otsuchi in the north-east of Japan remains unknown.  The population of the town of Otsuchi is 8,000 and the fate of half of the population remains unclear and sadly the worse is feared.

It is to this backdrop that I am thankful that I am based in Tokyo and Tokyoites should think deeply about the plight of people who have suffered so much.  Therefore, it is essential to pull together and try to move the economy forward.

At the same time the government needs to focus on a multitude of important things in order to restore greater confidence but a sense of reality is also needed to people who reside far away from Fukushima.

This is not downplaying the situation but panic and fear will not help Japan.

The real focus must be on Iwate, Miyagi, Fukushima, and all places which have been badly hit by the earthquake, tsunami, and the ongoing nuclear crisis.  (Please visit)

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Posted by on March 16, 2011 in INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS AND GLOBAL NEWS, Japan


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