Four Years After 3/11

It’s already been four years since Japan got shaken through by the great Tohoku earthquake, the ensuing tsunami and the disaster at the Fukushima nuclear power plant.

In Tokyo and surroundings earthquake activity is continuing to decrease, but there are still quite a number of aftershocks, especially in the Tohoku area. Well, M9 was one big quake…
In Tokyo itself all’s back to normal for quite a while already. The last aftermaths you can find in some subways lines that still run with half their in-cabin lights to save energy. Other than that, the office I work in, for example, is hopelessly overheated this winter – no trace of energy saving there.
We all received an emergency rucksack in the office containing batteries, a flashlight, gold-foil to keep you warm, gloves and other essentials. We store them now under our desks together with our helmets. Kinda funny it took 4 years to get those (they were distributed this January), but better late than never.

Personally, I keep a lot more food and water at home than before the earthquake and can easily survive for two weeks or so, should my apartment not collapse. I am finding myself already obliged to eat some of this stuff, since its expiry date is coming near and I am gradually replenishing it with new supplies.

The news were full of Fukushima stuff these days. In the not radioactively contaminated areas rebuilding has progressed quite a lot, as I also saw myself when I visited Higashimatsushima city in December for the company’s Santa Clause charity event.

In the contaminated areas things look of course still different. Most reports were about displaced people who cannot return to their contaminated homes and how they cope or rather not cope with the extended refugee life.
The reports were all rather teary with many elderly people whining to sad background music they want to go home and cannot. What struck me most was an elderly couple who returned to their house 9km or so from the nuclear plant to retrieve some stuff, and discovered that the wife’s expensive kimonos have been stolen. So… somewhere on the used-kimono market are radioactive ones… also, their house was ransacked by wild boars… the only mentioning anywhere that of course animals roam the abandoned areas, eating contaminated plants and digging in contaminated soil.
I didn’t sit in front of the TV for hours, I have only seen bits and pieces but they make you wonder…

While there was no more talk of tsunami wreckage – has it all been taken care of? There was talk of sacks upon sacks of contaminated soil and what to do with them and where to put them. While Japanese TV showed orderly lined up sacks of soil, one Facebook friend posted an article from a non-Japanese news site showing abandoned sacks of such soil on a beach, plunging gradually into the ocean…

Other programs focused on the Fukushima plant itself and philosophized about clean-up taking more than 40 years… One of the three melt-down reactors is now covered in a house, the others are still too hot to send workers close? I didn’t catch the details. 300 tons of radioactively contaminated cooling water is added per day. Kilometer-wide nothing but water tanks. Where to put all this stuff? I do not envy the people who have to deal with these problems.

On the surface all is back to normal – as long as it lasts. The next big quake could happen tomorrow. Below the surface? The waters are deep, that’s for sure and no clue what lurks beneath. I am still not buying any vegetable produce from Fukushima prefecture, I must say, but I don’t know where the salad I eat in the company’s canteen comes from. I don’t know where their fish comes from, or the meat, or the mushrooms. But still, I think we live healthier here, even if we might glow a bit in the dark, than vast parts of environmentally polluted China for example… I do not practice a head-in-the-sand kind of lifestyle, but on the other hand I also think it’s unhealthy to worry day and night and to fall for conspiracy theories. Thus my major concern is and remains the next quake rather than Fukushima… I just hope very hard that we’ll be spared a big one for the coming forty years or so…

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