Day 261 “Washing our spirits of rubble may actually be a lot harder”

Japanese hearts must be cleared of rubble to overcome triple disasters

Non-fiction writer Shinichi Sano

Non-fiction writer Shinichi Sano

“It was apocalyptic,” said 64-year-old non-fiction writer Shinichi Sano, as he recalled the nightmarish reality he witnessed in the Tohoku region after the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami. “I realized that the scene spread out before me would probably continue to appear in my dreams until I die.”

What Sano saw on March 20 after he arrived in the Iwate Prefecture city of Rikuzentakata — nine days after a massive quake hit off the coast of northeastern Japan — seemed to him to come straight out of a painting by the Belgian-born surrealist painter Paul Delvaux.

“A terrifyingly bright full moon bathed the deserted ruins that remained after tsunami wiped everything out. I felt dread, terror, and perhaps a sort of dreaminess. It may have been the same thing that people who were swallowed by the waves saw before their lives ended. And I’m alive.” The thought had made him tremble, Sano said.


“And now they’ve been forced out of their homes. … The day after the (1995) Great Hanshin Earthquake, I went to Kobe. There was a couple sifting through the scorched earth as ash smoldered around them. I moved closer and saw something white,” Sano said. “They were looking for the bones of their child. In the Sanriku region and Fukushima, people can’t even do that.”

Sano is now working on a biography of Masayoshi Son, the president and CEO of major telecommunications company Softbank Corp. Sano had been following Son since before the March 11 disasters.

“When I asked him what he did in the days following the quake disaster, he said he just watched television. And that he’d seen a girl dressed in red calling for her mother on the Sanriku coast, and that he’d cried in spite of himself. I asked him what he thought at that moment, and he repeated, three times: ‘I’m powerless.’ I think those are the kinds of words that we’d usually hear from politicians.”

Son visited evacuation centers in Fukushima, offering to provide transportation fees for the temporary evacuation of 1,000 children to Saga Prefecture in Kyushu out of his own pocket.

“Maybe this isn’t the best way to describe him, but Son’s just a cell phone seller. And here he was, not merely saying he would do something, but actually taking action.


“Everything rests on how we weave our words together, and how we decide to act. We must use our imagination without being swayed by the words of politicians and others. We need to train ourselves to think. I think that’s one way to overcome the quake disaster. Post-war Japan was able to rebuild because it was young and had momentum. Today, we have an aging population. Unless every single one of us washes away the rubble strewn about our spirits, we might not be able to triumph over the challenges we face this time.”

Washing our spirits of rubble may actually be a lot harder than clearing the disaster areas of physical rubble. (By Taichi Nemoto, Evening Edition Department)

(Mainichi Japan) November 28, 2011

Read the entire story at:

Letters from tsunami-affected students tell of bullying, lingering stress

Children forced by the Great East Japan Earthquake and accompanying disasters to change schools have written into a government-run counseling service telling of bullying and lingering stress from the disasters.

The service was started in 2006 by the Ministry of Justice (MOJ)’s Human Rights Bureau at elementary and junior-high schools around the country. A student can write on a prepared letter about problems that they can’t talk to friends or family about, post it in a mailbox, and the letter is delivered to the nearest legal affairs bureau. Government employees or volunteers write back and work with schools or youth counseling services as necessary.

According to the Human Rights Bureau, there were over 1,100 letters sent in this year between April and September, with around 20 being related to the Great East Japan Earthquake.

One student from the northeast Tohoku region wrote, “I was at school when the tsunami hit. Now I attend a different school, but I feel that I’m being ostracized.” Another student wrote, “I’ve been bullied at the school I transferred to. I can’t talk to any teachers about it. A bully even said to me, ‘Too bad you didn’t die in the tsunami.'”

“I constantly wonder why my family had to die and can’t focus on studying,” wrote another student. “My father who was living in Tohoku died in the tsunami, and I can’t accept it as reality,” wrote another.

One student in the Kanto region — which includes Tokyo — wrote, “I can’t drink the water because I’m worried about radiation.”

Through October and November, the Human Rights Bureau has been distributing the counseling letters to all elementary and junior-high schools across the nation. Kiyoko Yokata of the MOJ’s Human Rights Bureau says, “We are asking workers and volunteers to think carefully of the letter writers’ feelings when writing their responses. To protect the human rights of children, we will respond to the letters with care.”

(Mainichi Japan) November 28, 2011

Part of today’s entry over at EX-SKF:

“Trap of Prometheus” Series Part 2 – Resignation of a Researcher (2/4)

In [Part 2 “Resignation of a Researcher” (series from Asahi Shinbun) there is a very curious piece of information about SPEEDI simulation, the NISA and the PM’s Office’s decision to set the evacuation zone in concentric circles. In short,

  • The Ministry of Education had ordered the SPEEDI simulations from the beginning and knew exactly where to send the official to do the actual measurements in Namie-machi, Fukushima;
  • Not only the Ministry of Education ordered SPEEDI simulation calculations but also the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency ordered its own SPEEDI simulation calculations with much more accuracy;
  • NISA was setting the evacuation zone on March 11 evening based on the simulation;
  • NISA stopped their work as soon as the PM’s Office, based on no credible information or agreed-on procedure, announced the concentric circle evacuation zones.

Reading the Part 2 of the series, it sure looks as if almost everything bad that happened afterwards could have been prevented if the politicians and bureaucrats on the initial (and crucial) 1st and 2nd days of the nuclear accident had acted to protect the public, which I think is their constitutional duty. Instead, they played games, a turf war as if this was just another ordinary day in Kasumigaseki.

In the Installment 11, we learned that the Ministry of Education knew exactly where to look for high radiation because it had SPEEDI simulation result, but it didn’t bother to tell anyone about the radiation levels when the information would have made the difference. In the next Installment 12 below, we’ll see in more detail why the information wasn’t shared.


Resignation of a Researcher (12) Suddenly, it was evacuation in concentric circles


Why was the Ministry of Education able to precisely identify the location that would measure 330 microsieverts/hour radiation on March 15? (reporting by Takaaki Yorimitsu)


The Ministry of Education and Science in Kasumigaseki, Tokyo. Itaru Watanabe (age 53), Senior Deputy Director-General, Science and Technology Policy Bureau talks with occasional gestures. “In fact, we used SPEEDI in unit emission mode.”


SPEEDI is a simulation system to forecast the effect of radiation. It considers wind directions, wind speeds and topography and forecasts the dispersion of radioactive materials released.


Radioactive materials do not spread in concentric circles, and the area of contamination would take the shape with multiple protrusions. Forecast the shape of the contaminated area with SPEEDI and evacuate residents as quickly as possible – that is the fundamental principle of nuclear emergency preparedness.


The forecast would be based on the information from the nuclear plant as to how much radioactive materials are being emitted. That information was not available in this accident.


However, it is possible to make forecast by entering a formal [as opposed to actual] number. That is the “unit emission”, which assumes 1 becquerel/hour emission. Using this method, Watanabe was able to correctly identify the area with high radiation contamination.


It is not that Watanabe used a special method. The guideline set by the Nuclear Safety Commission specifies that the simulation calculation is to be done by unit emission or by the predetermined number because it is difficult to know the precise amount of emission right after the accident. Based on the map thus calculated, the areas and the directions that will need increased monitoring are to be decided.


“It was exactly according to the manual, to provide information of the unit emission calculation. It was in the manual that the unit emission calculation was to be distributed to parties involved when the actual amount of emission was unknown.”

マニュアルによると、配る先は一部の省庁と原子力安全委員会、福島県、そして現地対策本部。「実際に避難範囲を決める場合、SPEEDIを使ったのかどうか は文部科学省では分かりません。避難範囲を決めたのは文科省では無く、原子力対策本部ですから。今回は本来の使い方はされず、いきなり同心円状で避難の指示がなされた」。

According to the manual, the information was to be distributed to several government ministries and agencies, the Nuclear Safety Commission, Fukushima Prefecture, and the local countermeasures headquarters [in Fukushima]. “The Ministry of Education does not know whether the SPEEDI result was used in deciding the evacuation zones. The evacuation zones were decided not by the Ministry of Education but by the Nuclear Emergency Response Headquarters. This time, the manual wasn’t followed, and the order to evacuate in concentric circles was issued abruptly.”


According to that manual, the Ministry of Education would provide information, and using that information the Nuclear Emergency Response Headquarters would issue evacuation orders. The Nuclear Emergency Response Headquarters was the Prime Minster’s Official Residence.


However, Prime Minister Kan, Minister of Economy and Industry Banri Kaieda, and Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano all insist that they didn’t know about SPEEDI.In particular, Kaieda and Edano said in the Diet meeting that they didn’t know about it until after March 20. What was going on?

(To be continued in the next posts.)

It sure looks like someone (or some people) couldn’t resist playing “Sir Humphrey” in what may have been the biggest emergency situation that the country ever faced. And PM Kan, unlike the fictional PM Hacker, didn’t care to know how to use the career bureaucrats.

Cesium levels hit tens of billions of becquerels at river mouth

November 25, 2011

By EISUKE SASAKI/ Staff Writer

Researchers have sounded the alarm over river water containing cesium levels at tens of billions of becquerels a day flowing into the sea near Fukushima Prefecture, site of the crippled nuclear power plant.

A joint study by Kyoto University and the University of Tsukuba, among other entities, estimated that water at the mouth of the Abukumagawa river running through the prefecture was contaminated with cesium levels of about 50 billion becquerels a day.

They called for immediate and continued monitoring of the situation.

The daily radiation levels are equivalent to the total of amount of cesium in low-level contaminated water released into the sea in April by Tokyo Electric Power Co., operator of the stricken Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

The Abukumagawa river runs to the north in the prefecture, near Koriyama and Fukushima, the prefectural capital, and flows into the Pacific Ocean at Iwanuma in Miyagi Prefecture.

Its watershed area spans 5,400 square kilometers, including a vast stretch contaminated by the plant.

The researchers estimated the level for cesium-137 at 29.1 billion becquerels a day and that for cesium-134 at 23.4 billion becquerels a day–both at the mouth of the river.

More than 90 percent of the cesium was contained in small particles, including waterborne clay and other fine-grained soil, while the rest had dissolved in the water.

“The study shows a high level (of cesium) is being carried (into the ocean),” said Yosuke Yamashiki, associate professor of environmental engineering at Kyoto University. “The inflow will likely continue for some time. But the content can be reduced.”

Yamashiki said that could be accomplished by taking advantage of the fact that cesium tends to accumulate in areas where there is a dam.

The estimated levels near Date, a city situated at the middle reaches of the river, were 92.5 billion becquerels a day for cesium-137 and 83.8 billion becquerels a day for cesium-134.

The researchers explained that cesium levels are lower at the mouth of the river because deposits may have built up around dams along the way.

The research team monitored the volume of flow and cesium levels in the middle reaches and mouth of the river, as well as its tributaries, in June through August.

The monitoring was commissioned by the science ministry.

The researchers said cesium is continuing to contaminate the river water after it fell to the the ground in the watershed area and was carried into the river by rainfall.

More cesium could contaminate the river during decontamination operations and tilling of rice paddies in preparation for transplanting young rice plants, they added.

By EISUKE SASAKI/ Staff Writer

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: