Thursday, April 28, 2011

Reply to Luciana


I appreciate your comment. My reply ended up very long, so I decided to make a new blog, “Reply to Luciana.”

Iino-san, a Japanese blogger, wrote a few days ago that he attended a lecture on Nuclear Reactor and Radiation set up by Tokyo Institute of Technology. He wrote that Tokyo Electric intentionally made the blasts to avoid the worst melt down. Good or bad is relative, and I’m sure experts worldwide have their opinions. But learning the fact that they thought of the worst case scenario during the crisis peak and acted on it made me feel better.

The president of Tokyo Electric was on his business trip in Nara (near Kyoto) on 3/11.  The earthquake happened at 2:46 pm on 3/11.  At 3 pm, he tried to go back to Tokyo by car, but the freeway became unavailable because of the earthquakes.  He took a train to Nagoya and went to the airport to get on to his company helicopter.  But because of the regulation—no private flights after 7 pm, he could not fly.  So, by 9:30 pm, the Economy-Industry Ministry made an arrangement for him to fly by a defense force cargo plane.  At 11:30 pm, the plane headed to Saitama prefecture (the defense force airports are in different locations), and after 50 minutes on flight, a cabinet minister ordered the pilot to u-turn back.  The minister said the flight should be used to send emergency relief items, and the president could take a bullet train.  Meanwhile, aftershocks repeated and trains stopped.  He returned to Nagoya and next morning at 7 am, he took a helicopter and went to the head office at 10 am. 

This critical wasting of time, a breakup of national teamwork, affected the relationship between the company and the government officials. Later that afternoon, PM Kan was waiting for the Tokyo Electric’s updates, watching television. He saw the first blast and became furious at the executives. I had sympathized with PM Kan then. PM Kan is a graduate of Tokyo Institute of Technology, and probably a part of his self-learning, he has been studying about Nuclear Energy. At this time, he was getting pressure from the American consulate and then the President for more information. Exactly what happened in what order, I should wait for a complete detailed report. But there were a lot went on.

About patronizing and omitting, that’s what I want to focus on. I want to know the way it is, so we can learn from it.

I wasn’t paying attention until 3/11, but I’ve never heard anyone won their lawsuit against building nuclear reactor. Maybe, Brazil is different, and I hope it’s different. But I was surprised when I heard this morning that the people of Shiga prefecture won such lawsuit in the past. The judge who made the decision was interviewed. He said there were nights he woke up sweating before he arrived at his final decision. But he did it because of valuable human lives.

Because of Godzilla on my other blog, it reminded me that a Japan Airline’s plane crashed in Japan’s soil and killed over 500 many years ago. A popular singer, Sakamoto Kyu, who sang “Sukiyaki” and an old friend of mine from junior high school died in the crash. I didn’t know exactly what happened to that accident, but when I made a visit to my cousin in Yokohama after the accident, my aunt accused that the U.S. was responsible for the accident. Because I have been living in the U.S. for a long time, it was her way of protesting to the U.S. She said if Japan made the plane, it wouldn’t have happened. I didn’t know what to say. I brought this up because my son was with me on that trip. He had a Godzilla in his hand in one of the photos we took during that visit. It reminded me that that my cousin’s son gave his Godzilla to my son.

Anyway, I didn’t know what to say to my aunt. She was very gentle woman. Because of this disaster, I happened to ask a friend of mine about that crash. She said Japan Airline bought the U.S. plane which already had a problem to begin with. When they called a team of American mechanics to fix, they came, worked, covered it and painted it without being inspected. By the time, Japanese quality control workers came to inspect, it was already covered and painted. What did the Japanese do? They let it go. It’s after the fact, but it was fatal and immoral decision. After the accident, investigators gathered all the debris including knots the mechanics used and found out the team of mechanics did shoddy jobs which caused the accident. That’s what I heard.

This disaster issue has gone up to highly sensitive level of the Japan-U.S. relationship. My utmost interest all my life is how prejudice in us ever forms. I mean any kind of prejudice not excluding race. My premise is that the root of prejudice comes from no reason at all except ignorance. That’s what I think.

With that in mind, about the fight a former GE engineer had with his superiors on the safety issue of Mark I nuclear reactor, they are both Americans. During the week of 3/11, Tokyo Electric withheld their information from PM Kan, they are both Japanese. They are all educated people. No one wanted to destroy own or other countries. But if another worse situation happened, these human problems could lead to a disaster of unknown proportion. We cannot stop tsunami and earthquakes, but we can go over these critical human problems and correct and learn from them. Those problems must come from some kind of ignorance, (I hate to include the word, moral, because it’s such a judgmental word and can’t do much with it) because no matter how educated we become, we have the biggest room for improvement. What do you think?

Monday, April 25, 2011

"Mark I" Reactors

This is an excerpt from an April 24th article appeared on Asahi newspaper. It was written by Toshihiro Yamanaka, chief of the Asahi Newspaper New York bureau.

Fukushima Daiichi reactors No.1 through No. 4 are called Mark I which was made by GE in 60s. Yamanaka captured the news that once there was a furious debate within GE about the safety issues on Mark I. It was in 70s. I will translate and summarize one of two interviews he has reported.

Dale Bridenbau, 79 year old, started to work at GE in 1953. It was the year President Eisenhower pitched the usage of nuclear power for peace at an UN conference. Bridenbau worked as an expert on the safety inspection and travelled to Switzerland, India, Italy, and Japan. In Japan, he made visits to Suruga and Fukushima. He said,

“Of course, the Fukushima accident was caused by the earthquake followed by tsunami. It wasn’t that Mark I self-destroyed itself. But, if I pleaded louder for its improvement at the time, it could have avoided that serious situation. That leaves me regret as an early-stage developer.”

1975 was the year that Mr. Bridenbau and his superior fought on a safety issue. As the result of the Mark III development and tests, he discovered the weakness in the containment vessel of Mark I. If an out-of-ordinary event occurred, and that caused the cooling system to malfunction, then the containment vessel cannot withstand the inner pressure and will be damaged. He suffered with this fact. He told his superior,

“What we need to do right away is to study the threshold of the pressure again and improve on it. For that purpose, we need to stop the operation of all the Mark I reactors.”

The opinion of most GE’s employees differed from his. They said, “If we stop the operation, it will be looked at as a serious problem” and “It would make the surrounding residents uneasy.” At the time, 20 Mark I were already operating worldwide. His plead was rejected. He and two young employees left the company on that day of the argument as the result. It was February 1976.

Then and now, GE has maintained that Mark I has been updated and reinforced, so it has no defect.

In early ‘70s, Japan was behind on nuclear technology. Japanese engineers put all their effort in learning by imitating the U.S. technology. Nobody dared to ask hard questions and investigate themselves, I guess. Right now, 32 Mark I exist in the world. We need to confirm if all the Mark I reactors have been followed up with all the appropriate updates and reinforcement GE claims they have. No time to wait.

I read that, so far, the total number of nuclear reactor accidents is 12. The U.S. had 4, France, 2, Germany, Scotland, and Russia, 1, and Japan, 3. We must stop the accident from Japan. Japanese cannot afford to sit and being agreeable anymore.

No matter how bad the situation is, we need to know. How people would react to the news is each person’s responsibility. We still need to know.

Today’s Asahi, I found the following sentence under the article “Question into Japan’s Global Accountability.” “The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has cancelled the partnership with Toshiba to further set up nuclear reactor plants.”

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Pessimist or Optimist

I’m an optimist, but at the mid-March, I wrote back to one of email I received that I thought the whole Japan was going underneath the water. Only a moment perhaps, but the thought zipped past through my mind. The ocean didn’t, but ashes buried Pompeii.

Terada Torahiko, a physicist and author, wrote the following in 1924. It was a year after the great Kanto earthquake occurred and left 140,000 dead. Mostly they died of unruly fires. I’m glad that he didn’t live to see 3/11.

“Some (Japanese) people say Japan is an earthquake country and become pessimistic.

Very rare but some so-called non-earthquake countries had triggered pretty big earthquakes in the past. And there is still a chance of seeing a large scale earthquake.

The fault made by the 1906 San Francisco earthquake extended 450 km. The 1920 Kansu earthquake in China left 100,000 dead.

Thinking about the kind of country Japan is, it has always been having small earthquakes little by little. But, for other seemingly safe countries, isn’t it possible that an unprecedented earthquake of once 3000 or 5000 years could happen and destroy a country all at once? To research all the facts to find out, the human history is too short.

The 3000th or 5000th year could arrive tomorrow. At such time, the people of such country might become envious of earthquake Japan.”

Black Kimono with Cherry Blossoms

Last week, she was on her way with her mother to a photo studio. March was graduation month. She was very tall, and her black kimono, striking. She wore also a hakama which is a standard graduating outfit like trouser. They got off at the same subway station as I did, and she was struggling to go up the staircase. So, I had an opportunity to admire the pink cherry blossoms design and red undergarment. 


Wednesday, April 20, 2011


I took these photos before March 11th.   Above photo, I was at McDonald's, and this boy was playing with his Doraemon character that came with his Happy Meal.  That character in the photo moves around in a neat way.  I wanted the same toy.

For my grandson, I mean.  I told the boy's parents how wonderfully active and talkative he was.  He kept moving and talking.  He didn't stop.  So, I asked him if I gave him money could he buy me one Happy Meal for my grandson.  He said yes.

The gift came with the meal was worth the money.  The boy probably didn't need any more burger or apple juice, but I gave him those and kept the Doraemon.  He was happy, and I was happy.   We had fun.

For a long time, I've been aware of a collectible toy store at the foot of the library I go often.  After I got that Doraemon above, I went into the store and asked the owner if he had the similar toys.  My grandson loves small toys that move.  He is fascinated with my plastic toy frog every time he comes to see me.  I want more of those toys to keep him occupy.   They are simple toys, but I never found them in the toy stores I had visited. 

My son used to own similar toys as above, and I used to have a godzzila in my cubicle at work.

Peko chan

Monday, April 18, 2011

Low and Long

So, we know that exposing to enormously high radiation all at once or having accumulated over 100 millisieverts will increase the cancer risk. But what would happen if we were exposed to low radiation for a long period?

Nikkei newspaper of April 17 showed the above graph. The title is “The risk of cancer death based on an epidemiological research in the high radiation area in India.”  I googled some erroneous spelling, but luckily, I found the following.

On the graph, the left vertical line shows risk, and in this case, the risk is set to 1. The bottom horizontal line shows the value in millisieverts. The longer they are exposed with low level of radiation, the risk is going down. Isn’t that interesting? I heard some part of Brazil and Iran has high background radiation, so I guess the situation must be similar. In the above web article, I found the words, terrestrial gamma radiation. Terrestrial sounds mysterious. It reminds of Ashok’s blog on Paspermia and Pansmeria. What we have under our lands are scary like faults, plates, and radioactive mineral but also fascinating.

According to Nikkei, in Karunagappally, Kerala, India, radioactive minerals are scattered in the area, and the average radiation there is 5 to 10 times more than the world average. The residents are exposed to the natural radiation of 10 to 20 millisieverts a year. In 2009, a study on 70,000 residents was conducted. The result was even the people who had accumulated over 600 millisieverts showed no evidence  in the difference on risk when compared with a control group. For the same amount of radiation, if our exposure took a long period, then the effect on living thing would be smaller.

In recent weeks, I’ve gained quite many readers from Ukraine. I’m glad to see my blog statistic map turn green there. Now I know exactly where Ukraine is in the world map. I just want to say that I hear often Japanese scientists refer to what they’ve learned from the Chernobyl accident. Because the experts were able to accomplish many studies in Ukraine, the Japanese government quickly notified us about radiation when rained and the danger of pipe water for babies. They distributed bottled water to affected families. I appreciate the knowledge.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Calculating Risk

An Old and Prized Cherry Tree Behind Gumyoji Kannon

Below is an excerpt from May issue of Bungeishinju magazine. The title of this interview-styled article is “The Truth Is It Takes A Year,” and the subtitle is “Erroneous Reports on Radiation.”

Interviewer: Koichi Okamoto, specialized in Crisis Psychology, Professor at Toyo-Eiwa Women College, a specialist member of Nuclear Energy Safety Committee and Nuclear Energy Committee

Interviewee: Masayori Ishikawa, Professor of the Graduate School of Hokkaido University
Studied and worked at Kyoto University Nuclear Reactors Research Center, Tokyo University Nuclear Power Research General Center, Hokkaido Hospital,

The Petals of the Cherry Blossoms 

On page 209, this is what the interviewee said.

“To evaluate the amount of radiation, we have to add how much exposure we collected throughout our lifetime, not just in days.”

A friend of mine has recently told me that after the Hiroshima bomb, the radiation fall out onto the Kanto region--Tokyo and Yokohama included, was 10,000 times more than the previous norm. I didn’t know that. My parent died without knowing it.

“This is based on the current statistics. If our accumulated amount passed 100 mili sieverts, and if we added more, per 1000 mili sievert (1 siervert), the cancer rate would possibly go up 5 %. Therefore, if a person were exposed to 100 mili sieverts so far in her or his life, and also the probability of that person to afflict with a cancer were 50 %, then the rate becomes 50.5 %.

Today, one person out of two gets cancer, and one out of three dies by cancer. Being aware of these facts and the accumulated amount of our own radiation exposure and risks, we can choose the way we live.”

So far, I know the Japanese average is 1.45 mili sierverts a year. The Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombs happened before I was born. My mother and aunt must have exposed to the 10,000-times-over-the-norm radiation, and the descendants like us are I’m sure affected. I moved to the U.S. in 1970. So, I want to know the U.S. average by state, city, and town. My mother died of liver cancer at age 76, but my aunt moved to the U.S. around 1955, and she is 87 and has dementia, but as far as I know, she doesn’t have cancer.

I hope this helps.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Pine Trees

Conflicts continue here. Please see this amazing photo below. It is the only pine tree remained at Takadamatsubara, a picturesque spot in Rikuzentakata City in Iwate prefecture. A few days ago, I read that about 70,000 pine trees used to grow there.

Another beautiful spot for pine trees is Matsushima. At the seaside there, we can see many small islands covered with pine trees. It’s in Matsushima town in Miyagi prefecture.

In early 90s, I met a Japanese friend of mine at Los Angeles airport and travelled together on Korean Air to Japan. She was on the way to her home, Sendai city in Miyagi prefecture. I was on the way back to Yokohama. I told her I had never been to the northeastern Japan. She invited me to her birth home. Her house was at the foot of the former Aoba Castle. I couldn’t resist such offer, so I joined her and her family a few days later to a hot spring in Zaoh, a ski resort, and then she and I took a short trip to Matsushima next day. We had fresh oysters for lunch and watched many small islands covered with dark green pine-trees in a distance. The scenery was just like in fairy tales, photos and old paintings I had read and seen.

I haven’t seen the friend for a long time, but because of the disaster, I sent an email to our mutual friend and asked about her and her family. I received her email and confirmed that they were all well, but her college classmates lost their homes in the tsunami. I was glad and sorry about the news.

I wondered what happened to the picturesque Matsushima town. Its view is very important cultural property. It shows up often in old and current literature. Yesterday, I learned that those islands are still there, and maybe some are damaged, but they still have pine trees in Matsushima town. But 500 out of 1000 evacuees need new homes, and they cannot build where they used to live. They have to find their home in higher ground where many pine trees are standing. With prefabricated housing in mind, the reporter asked an authority which was more important, pine trees or people.

The authority replied, people. That makes sense. Now, do you think the authority will decide and cut those trees to build prefabricated houses for those 500 people? Stay tune. When I hear further news on this issue, I’ll let you know.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Faults and Plates

I’m not an expert of earthquakes, but ZACL has mentioned fault, so I decided to write this blog. First, I live in Yokohama, but about six months a year, I live in San Dimas, California which is close to famous San Andreas Fault. I don’t know how close it is though. According to my digital Britannica, the total movement along the fault during the last few million years appears to have been several miles. There are many faults all over Southern California, so we cannot avoid all.

About Plates, please see the attached photo and find two red arrows toward the bottom.
The left arrow is the Philippine Plate. The right arrow is the Pacific Plate. On March 11th, the Pacific Plate pushed the Land (Japan) Plate and caused the 9.0 earthquake. “X” was the epicenter.

On the photo, above left shows a cross section of the plates, and downward movement of the Pacific Plate (see red arrows), pushing the Land Plate upward. The red dot shows the point the earthquake occurred.

Yearly, according to Asahi, in the western Japan, the Philippine Plate moves 4 to 5 cm, and in the eastern Japan, the Pacific Plate moves 8 to 9 cm toward the bottom of the Land Plate. So, all these movements have been piling up over the years, and sometimes, this stress causes earthquakes.

After 9.0 erupted on March 11th, so far, five aftershocks of above 7.0 already occurred. Experts have said this trend will continue in a diminishing way for six months to a year, but it is still possible to have 8.0. Last few days, I felt three pretty big jolts. In Yokohama, they were 3 and 4, but in the northeast, they were 7.1 and probably 6 and high 5. It’s so many, it’s hard to keep track.

This morning, I was walking toward a commercial building and saw a worker filling a crack with cement next to a wet concrete corner of the foundation. I chatted with him for a while. The building had three or four cracked glass panels after the earthquake, but they were already fixed.

It must have cost the owner a lot of money to fix all that. Concrete buildings withstood the tsunami, but for smaller earthquakes like magnitude five or so, concrete buildings probably cost a lot of money to fix cracks. So far, I see wooden houses and apartments have survived with almost no problem for magnitude 5 or 4.

Monday, April 11, 2011


from Asahi Newspaper on April 11, 2011

My very good friend in Yokohama came from Saitama prefecture. Michiko was born there. After she married, she’s been living in Yokohama. But her brother still lives in Saitama and takes care of his pear orchards and rice fields. She said, a while after she married, one day she heard from her brother that a new high school had sprung up near their birthplace. The name was Kisai. That’s an unusual name. Ki means horse riders and sai means west. During 70s and 80s, new schools were created all over Japan. Then many years went by, the bubble economy burst, and the population dwindled, and she heard Kisai High School closed down. So, that was the last time she heard about the school.

But once again, she heard the name during the tsunami news two or three weeks ago. 1200 people of Futaba town in Fukushima prefecture were evacuating to former Kisai High School. Michiko said her birthplace is among rice fields, and nothing much is there. I’m fascinated with country scenes. She said she never wanted to go back to live there. I kept asking her why. She added, “But, the town has water and everything. A train passes through the town.”

According to Asahi newspaper of April 11, the chart shows the numbers of evacuees in each prefecture. The total number of evacuees from 9.1 earthquake and tsunami are 163,781. The rightmost top tile is Hokkaido, and it accepted 702 people. Going downward, Iwate is 48,736, Miyagi, 54,764, Fukushima, 25,669, Tochigi, 1669, Ibaragi, 879, Chiba, 863. The second rightmost tiles, from top to bottom, Aomori,975, Akita, 1881, Yamagata, 1913, Gunma, 2861, Saitama, 3514, Tokyo, 1367, Kanagawa, 945, and so on. Saga and Yamagata prefectures had offered to accept 30,000 people, but ended up with fewer people.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Doubts and Damages

The article, “Question Tomodachi’s True Value” appeared on page 3 of the April 7th Asahi newspaper. According to the paper, the Japanese government officials are extremely dissatisfied with the way the U.S. handled in the face of the disaster. Tomodachi means friends, and the name of a new U.S. army operation for the earthquake. I expected such article eventually, but I was surprised to see it already.

The body of the article is as follows including my interpretation:

The U.S. changed her stance from waiting for Japan to come forward for help to pushing her way in. The U.S. was getting frustrated with the Japanese government and being doubtful because Japan was not accepting the U.S. offer of support.

The above issue happened in Kobe earthquake, so the old issue was a matter of time to come up. In fact, I was discussing about it with a Red Roomer through email at the beginning of the event.

The article said the U.S. went on her way without consulting with Japan.

My interpretation of the next paragraph: If the U.S. were truly a friend of Japan, President Obama would have consulted with PM Kan before going out blasting his heroic 80 km zone requirement and providing chartered jets for 9000 Americans to go home.

Japanese officials’ complaints were,

“The U.S. should have consulted with Japan beforehand.”

“They probably think Japan as an underdeveloped nation.”

There was also tension between the two countries about America’s offer of robot to work in the radioactive environment in the nuclear plant.

I don’t know what happened, but the robot idea sounds super great. Why-don’t-you-accept-it probably came first rather than thinking of other’s situation.

Then, the U.S. pressed Japan asking if Japan had a strategy, and whether Japan had preparation for crisis.

This is my opinion. I think those questions are out of place and occasion. It was during the national crisis. Asking such questions to the head of Japan does not show good spirit of support. That is not a manifestation of good global teamwork. If the nuclear power plant 60 km away from Manhattan was hit by 9.0 earthquake and tsunami and lost all the powers including emergency diesel power, what does President Obama would do? I wonder how he feels if PM Kan asks, “Do you have a strategy? Are you prepared for this?”

Some Japanese official made comment on this issue. “This is because we have differences in making decisions. The American way is top-down approach, but Japanese way is bottom up.” He insinuated the difference in culture.

Yes, I agree that there are differences in cultures and languages. But, this is more about President Obama’s personality than the American way, and also I believe President Obama was not well informed. I had worked with such a personality once facing a systems disaster. That engineer was frustrated because I moved in a snail pace. When I looked back on that crisis, he did what he did because he didn’t have all the information. And at the time, I had no capacity to explain well while thinking of a solution.

The negative consequences of President Obama’s sweeping actions shot and spread more fear to the international communities and also Japanese citizens. Damages have already made. Farmers had thrown away their vegetables even though their products passed the requirement. Fear and tainted reputation climbed overnight supported by inadequate, erroneous, and sensational foreign news.

30 or so foreign consulates including Nepal moved their offices out of Tokyo. It is interesting to note that Japanese announcers keep including Nepal in this picture because Nepal is the only Asian country joined in this move.

In the meantime, the government is expanding radiation monitoring spots and finding some of the spots still emit similar high level while other places, lower. The day before yesterday, 7.1 aftershock hit off the coast of Miyagi, and Tepco’s other nuclear plant, Onagawa lost some power…

I wanted to change my mood. I didn’t need to, but I went to have my hair cut yesterday. I always look forward to see my hairstylist and chat. The last time I saw her was right before the earthquake. We said hello and chatted how horrible the earthquake was, then I said,

“How’s your son?” Her son is very active seven-year old. I met him once.

“Oh, he hasn’t been with me,” the hairstylist said through her mask. She is my daughter’s age and married to an American. She is beautiful and has very warm personality. She is from the northeast.

“Oh, what happened to him?”

“He is in the U.S. with my husband because of radiation.”

“Oh, I see. But the radiation in Yokohama is low. Do you know it’s lower than the U.S.?”

“No. Really?”

“It”s 0.04, and the average natural radiation in the U.S. is 0.4. It’s on newspapers daily. And the faucet water in Yokohama has been at the safe level even when we had rain.”

It’s apparent that they haven’t been reading Japanese newspapers. Or maybe, her husband wanted to take advantage of the charter jet to visit his family in the U.S. If the husband thought the situation truly dire, he would have taken his wife with him. About her mask, she and some others wear because of pollen allergy. Right now is the worst time of year. I wear sometimes to keep me warm from very cold winds.

This morning, it started to rain. I filled my plastic containers with water just in case.
Then I read Asahi morning news. On page 5, it reported that President Obama’s call for the 80 km radius evacuation was based on a fictitious scenario, not scientific data. It said that Randy Sullivan of NRC explained, ‘It’s better than not making a decision.”

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Amenimomakezu by Miyazawa Kenji

kobus magnolia

Miyazawa Kenji was a fine educator who lived after his ideal life in the northeast and wrote poems. Amenimomakezu is the title of the poem below. The literal translation of it is “Not to be defeated by also rain.” Ame (rain) nimo (also) makezu (not defeated). This poem is one of the most popular modern Japanese poems.

“never let rain bother” by Miyazawa Kenji

translated by keiko amano

never let rain bother

never let winds bother

never let snow or the heat of summer bother her

built with a strong body

with no greed

never hold grudges

always smiles in a quiet way

eats two bowls of brown rice a day with a bit of miso paste and some vegetables

acts on various matters without considering herself

looks, listens, and understands well

plus not forgetting

under the shade of a pine tree out in a field

she lives in a tiny thatched-roof hut

in the east, if a child fell ill, she goes out there to care for the child

in the west, if a mother grew exhausted, she goes and carries the mother’s load instead

in the south, if a man dropped near death, she goes and tells him, “Don’t be afraid”

in the north, if someone started a fight or tried to file a lawsuit, she says,

“That’s stink. Stop it”

on a drought summer, she let her tear well up

on a cold summer, she plods about

everyone calls her Blockhead

no compliment

no complaint

that’s the kind of person

I want to be

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

High or Low

natural radiation map  April 3rd

Thank goodness the leakage of high radiation water at last stopped. On high or low, I’ve learned that radiation rates depend on variables, but that leak from the pit near the Reactor two was way too high.

At Fukushima Daiichi, operators have been dumping their accumulated low radiation water into the ocean since yesterday. They call it low because apparently France and Britain have been dumping their processed radiation water of similar rate. I didn’t know that. Nobody has given us the comparison data. I read it in Nikkei newspaper yesterday. It was not on the first page. I’d like to know the rate from each country such as Japan and the U.S. We all must be dumping the processed water tainted with radiation.

By reading the New York Times, I haven’t seen much explanation about high or low on radiation. Their articles tend to report on high, higher, and highest on radiation in Fukushima. An article on the NY Times on April 1st still stresses on expanding the danger zone to 80 km radius. The article focuses on one higher radiation spot. I wondered if the article was a reprint for a moment.

Daily, Japanese newspapers report on radiation rates by region. They are low. See the photos. Again, Japanese announcers do not compare much with foreign countries. They would say, “It has gone up slightly,” or “it went down to normal rate.” The rates of natural radiation in Japan are very small compared with the rates in foreign countries. I watched one Japanese program in which a Japanese expert showed the average radiation of the world as 0.5. I think the unit is micro sievert. That’s ten times higher than the Japan’s average. I couldn’t believe it. In another television program, I saw the average of the U.S. natural radiation was 0.4. In Yokohama, it’s about 0.04. 0.04 is the Japan’s average.

Right now, Tokyo’s average is double the Yokohama rate, but no need to be alarmed when we compare it with the world average. That’s why people say, “it’s high or higher than normal, but it won’t affect on our health, it’s minimal.” According to the numbers on the photo, that’s true. Government officials and announcers are telling own citizens, not to the citizens of other country.

About the food contaminated with radiation, one Japanese expert said that if we ate, although we will never do that on purpose, such spinach and drink such water and milk for one year, the amount of radiation we take in will be similar amount as we might receive if we simply live in a foreign country with the average radiation. You can imagine why they say that. But I assure you that the opinion was directed to calm the Japanese public. The expert did not speak in an arrogant way, and no one would like to compare with foreign countries and say we are better in any way, especially at the time of spilling HIGH radiation water into the ocean.

I can see why Japanese government officials don’t talk much comparing with foreign countries although they are doing it now in a very slow and delicate way. They don’t want to create more harm than they already have. They don’t want to boast the good thing Japan has enjoyed all these years in face of this gigantic nuclear radiation problem.

I don’t know the reason why the natural radiation Japan receives is so low compared to the average in the world. I guess it is just the way it is. It is interesting though that China is very close to Japan, but their average is 0.54.

Further, even in Japan, our natural radiation rates vary by region. I heard that Kansai area is double the Kanto area. Osaka and Kyoto are in Kansai. Tokyo and Yokohama are in Kanto. Separately, also Ibaragi is in Kanto, not the northeast. One of the reports I read in Huffington, Ibaragi was the part of the northeast.

But how the radioactive materials are spreading if they are? I don’t understand their spread with the relationship to the natural radiation map with numbers. Asahi newspaper listed the following site but it said it isn’t detail. It also said the machine broke after giving an output once. IAEA also is collecting data for making global forecasts. I wonder if the system was used before and how accurate it has been. I see many sites, but I just need one easy map to see and the info. to be correct. That is my concern.

About the design of Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear reactors, it was confirmed that it was old. No surprise there. Toshiba and Hitachi tried to imitate GE’s design to learn how to build reactors. The emergency generators that failed should have been housed in more secure place. The CEO of GE made his visit to Japan after three weeks from the accident. I haven’t heard much about whose responsibility the design is, but I sense a little bit what’s going on. The language barrier must be great. That’s my hunch. I think imitating is a good way to learn as junior engineers, but to build nuclear reactors, imitating alone is enough. We have to know what we are doing from core and include all the error routines and seek expert opinions in each category and synchronize all the knowledge. I saw a photo of spaghetti wiring plus tube looking things overhead that a former nuclear reactor engineer has shown. I used to watch customer engineers work under the floor of mainframe computers, but it is much worse. It looked like a giant mess.

Friday, April 1, 2011


I hope the spill into the ocean stop immediately. I feel sick thinking how it is making people all over the world feel. It is also so sad that the effort Japanese have been putting into recycling, caring for their health, and living longer could be nullify by this single event. I hope people in the northeast can soon settle down in reasonably comfortable places and be able to open their large windows without worry.

It’s been 20 days since 3/11. Some communities near the nuclear plant have moved away together from multiple nearby shelters to another shelter outside their prefecture. They plan to stay together as a community even though they cannot go back. Togetherness is preferable, Japanese experts say. If your town were devastated right now, would you move together with your neighbors?

When I started to write this earthquake series, Julia had asked me to write about my neighborhood. The photo is one of my neighbor and me in front of a shed in my garden. He still lives in the same house where he was born with his mother. Last year while we were talking over the fence, I told him I like his house. In response, he twisted his nose. To me, he is one of the lucky people, but unfortunately, most Japanese have not shared the same sentiment as I have. Most Japanese have rebuilt their houses, and their original authentic wooden houses with verandahs and large windows are almost all gone from Yokohama. Our old houses are rare nowadays. I love old Japanese houses.

So, the houses around my neighborhood have changed over the years, but my neighbors have remained the same. They are my childhood friends. Some married, some didn’t, and some live with their siblings or parents. But we no longer make visits to each other unless we have a common problem. The end of last year, we had one such occasion. Our land owner changed. It could lead to problems. So, I made calls all over, and we got together and shared information. That was a good thing.

Otherwise, our neighbors and I only greet if we happen to meet. I chat a little with a few when I see them while shopping or passing by. So, I thought about what we would do if a disaster struck our community. I don’t think we would gather like the northeast people and want to establish the same community. I think the northeast is much more together than the people in Yokohama. Our team spirit may have deteriorated.

But being tightly together has demerit. Asahi newspaper on March 27 reported on the first page about the issue. Under a subtitle “Cannot abandon and leave,” I’ll translate the body. A bus is scheduled to leave from Ootuki High School in Ootuki town. Oguni Kanako, a barber in the town, entered the bus with her children. She said,

“I want to remain in the town. I don’t want to go. But I have no house, job, or schools.”

The man in charge of a 300-member shelter in Kamaishi said, “I can’t go leaving my colleagues and friends and go to an inn.” He said one member was leaving from his shelter to get to an inn. The member said to him or her before leaving,

“When I come back to clean my house, please let me stay at the shelter again.”

“Abandoning us and wanting to come back as she pleases, I don’t get it,” the man in charge said.

There were only few who went away from the shelter. This must be tough for those people. Being a member of a tightly knitted community has merit and demerit. The kind of patience my American born daughter would probably never possess would be exactly the cause of their strong teamwork. Readers probably understand it, so I say no more.