The earthquake and subsequent tsunami now two weeks ago gave Japan a lot to clean up. Most notably, the Fukushima nuclear power plant in Northern Japan. Concern arose following the earthquake and tsunami when power was cut off to the plants, preventing temperature regulation. For about the last week, teams have been working day and night to get the situation under control. While at the time of writing this post, the situation at the reactor seems to be in a somewhat-controlled state, there have been some effects.
Products from Fukushima and surrounding prefectures have been discovered with higher than normal amounts of radioactive material on/in them. Leafy greens and milk were most recently discussed – images of farmers disposing of the contaminated products can be seen all over the web. Many countries stopped accepting shipments of these kinds of products as a precaution to their citizens.
Water was also effected as a result of the situation at Fukushima. On Wednesday, radioactive iodine was detected in water supplying much of Tokyo and some of the surrounding areas. Officials declared the water unsafe for infants to drink, but acceptable for adult consumption. The statement was made under the assumption that the radiation would be present in the water long-term. However, this fortunately does not seem to be the case. Thursday, officials stated the radiation detected in the water had dropped, and had become safe for consumption by all once more.
Regardless of this, it still resulted in immediate attempts to hoard water, especially among families with very young children. Tokyo distributed 240,000 bottles of 550ml water bottles to families with infants in an effort to assuage fears and provide assistance. Every vending machine I’ve come across recently shows there is no water available.
Signs posted in convenience stores and supermarkets note a restriction for some goods, including water, milk, and bread. Somehow, my local 7-11 seems to be perpetually stocked with water, despite all this. The water is labeled as “French” mineral water, though. Given France’s reaction to the recent events here, I wouldn’t be surprised if leaving this water on the shelves was a subtle statement by the Japanese. Who knows.
This aside, Tokyo is quickly resuming business as almost-usual. Many stores and businesses have shorter hours and less lighting in an effort to conserve power all across the city. Trains run at slightly different schedules. Mostly, however, people, are continuing about their normal lives as best they can.
The only real issue still present in Tokyo is paranoia. Stress and lack of proper sleep combined with steady streams of news have produced a very weary population. A recent report on the news discussed something many citizens were apparently very concerned with – a “strange” yellow substance on the ground all over the city following the previous day’s rain.
“Is it radioactive?! Is that the result of acid rain?! WHAT IF WE STEPPED IN IT?!”
These were some questions asked honestly by the population. The news took the time to interview an expert about this mysterious substance, who calmly stated (probably after heaving a big sigh and rolling his eyes): “It’s pollen. It rained, and stuck to the ground, because it was in the air before.” I’m willing to bet the expert would have liked to add: “Go take a nap, you paranoid idiots.”
It’s become far too easy to be scared about regular aspects of life. People have even forgotten it’s allergy season, despite pollen level broadcasts on the trains and on TV.
Life is returning to normal, though. Rather than spend my time hovering in front of the news and worrying about the well being of Tokyo, it’s clear there are better, more productive things to be doing. Relief efforts in Japan are underway. Contributing to the aid of those affected by the disaster in Northern Japan should really be the current focus of the media and other concerned parties. Heartbreaking stories now litter the news – a father who had to bury his three daughters, an elderly husband and wife unable to leave the evacuation areas because the husband suffers from dementia and is unable to walk. People are unable to find even the simplest of items like clean socks, underwear, or blankets.
At this time, it unfortunately appears as though physical items cannot be sent north at this time – I’m hoping it’s because there’s already a surplus of supplies, but traffic is posing a problem. Regardless of this, I know many are coordinating relief efforts both online and in their communities to help the affected people in Northern Japan in any way possible. I hope the media and public can shift into aid mode to help those who need it.
I’ll continue to write about this and more information where applicable, but I do also want to continue including information about regular life, like previous blog posts. Tokyo needs some normal. Thanks for following along throughout all of this, and thanks for your feedback.