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Japan-as-usual … almost

December 26, 2011

It's calm in Fukuoka (shaded, lower left)

JAPAN-AS-USUAL … ALMOST
By
David Ritchie

Fukuoka, Japan is a lovely coastal city known as a great place to live. I’m writing this post in a hotel lobby there.

Little has changed in this neighborhood since my last visit in 2005. We’re 1000 km southwest of Fukushima. Moreover, Fukuoka is on the west side of the country, not the east, where Daiichi’s ruins spew radionuclides.

In short, everything here looks like Japan-as-usual on this visit … almost.

A few odd details do stand out, even in this relatively protected corner of the country.

The hotel lobby, for example, seems peculiarly inactive. Except for the staff at the front desk, I have the lobby nearly to myself. One can hear every note of “One Note Samba” playing softly on the sound system. And the floor where I’m staying is so quiet that I may be its only occupant.

Also, something curious showed up on the subway ride from the airport. The young woman seated opposite me had clearly lost some hair around the crown, and tried to hide the bare spot with a combover.

Had she come from the heavily irradiated area farther north? Was her hair loss due to radiation exposure?

In that event, she wouldn’t be alone. Check the Fukushima Diary posts at fukushima-diary.com, such as:

 http://fukushima-diary.com/2011/12/the-most-important-blog-in-the-world/

That blog is by a Japanese who recently fled to Europe to escape the radioactivity in Japan. He’s glad he did.

EX-SKF is worth a look too, at http://ex-skf.blogspot.com/.

Meanwhile, on the internet, one sees advertising for employment near Fukushima, but no mention whatever of high radioactivity there.

And online ads for native-speaking English teachers continue running … though one ad has a stipulation. To get a teaching job through that ad, you must agree to be sent anywhere in Japan. Now, where might foreign teachers be especially scarce, hmm? And why?

Near the hotel, at the mouth of the Hii River, I noticed two floating booms stretching from bank to bank. From previous visits, I don’t remember seeing those. Are they there to catch radioactive debris that might float in?

Maybe tomorrow I should visit the beach and see what is washing up. Americans and Canadians are starting to get Fukushima debris now. Watching how they deal with it should be instructive.

Watching something else is informative too: the eyes of individuals here in Fukuoka. In them, I’ve seen no particular hints of fear.

Yet rain and snow continue falling. And with them comes radioactivity, which concentrates in hot spots as runoff and melt water collect in streams and puddles.

A while ago, the sound system in the hotel lobby  played “Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head.” Fresh lyrics to the song occur to me:

          Does that mean I’m gonna wind up prematurely dead?

          Shikata ga nai, ’cause

          We’re all exposed to alpha, beta, and gamma

          From sundry isotopes a-pouring from the wreck at Fukushima

          And if you think they’re harmless, you’re a hopeless dreamer!

Please understand. This is not to make fun of a tragedy.

But maybe grim humor makes the point clearer than sober rhetoric would.

ⓒDavid Ritchie 2011

(David Ritchie lives and works in Seoul, Korea. He welcomes correspondence and asks only that it be civil in tone. Contact: kwriter [at] asia.com.)

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