(Sign for the Setsuden: the campaign to save electricity because Fukushima and many other nuclear power stations are currently out of action. The Setsuden officially ended last week. Now we`re just walking around in the dark on a voluntary basis.)
It has been a long summer. At Narita I couldn`t remember my Tokyo address for the re-entry card. Then I couldn`t remember what floor my office is on (the uni have moved my office three times in two years). But I can name every character on Downton Abbey so it`s not Alzheimer's. Just priorities.
I thought the Fukushima situation would have been largely overcome by now but it has not. The plant is still not airtight and last week the papers reported a mystery build-up of hydrogen gas. Nevertheless many Japanese people seem adamant that all food and water is safe. There is even a Support Fukushima campaign encouraging shoppers to choose their products from that prefecture to save their rural industries. Some people are doing just that. With the idea of making a rataouille, I went to my local Co-op to buy peppers and zucchini. The zucchini were from Ibaraki, the peppers were from Fukushima. Instead I have been cycling to various supermarkets and buying anything from west of Osaka or abroad. Consequently I can`t know what I am going to make until I get everything home and see what is possible. Most of the time I`ll make a pasta sauce with canned tomatoes from Italy. The fresh ones are all from Hokkaido at the moment. If I find mushrooms or spinach I`ll make an omelette. But the eggs are all local so I won`t be eating those too often. I went for battery eggs instead of free range - I don`t want my chickens walking around eating anything off ground which may be contaminated. But I still can`t know what the battery chickens are being fed.
Speaking of Hokkaido, some people say it is safe and others say it is not. I have been buying small amounts of Hokkaido fat free milk for my tea but I am steering clear of its other dairy products. At the import stores I buy feta cheese from Greece and Dutch Edam. I`d kill for a yoghurt though.
My city, Mitaka, is conducting daily radiation tests at 104 local schools and playgrounds at 5cm and 1 meter from the ground. The results are posted on Twitter or can be emailed to you daily. The latest results for the school closest to my apartment are 0.07 micro-sieverts at 5cm, and 0.07 at 1 metre. Another neighbourhood shows 0.11 at 5cm, and 0.10 at 1 metre. This seems to be lower than average daily amounts around the world. But I also think it depends on what direction the wind is blowing. Radioactive waste is being transported from Fukushima and burned at Tokyo waste disposal centres. North and East Tokyo are radiation hotspots because of it. Anyway, it is not the wind-born radiation that most people are worried about now but cesium in the food.
The Japan Times had an interesting article recently, Hold the Cesium: `Ways to reduce radiation in your diet`. Kunikazu Noguchi, lecturer at Nihon University, has published a book on the subject so I have been following his tips as much as possible (assuming he is telling the truth and not a mouthpiece for the government from where, one assumes, he gets his funding ... and his job):
* Cesium can be easily dissolved in water so rinse all fruit and vegetable before cooking
* `Most` (most??) radiation can be removed from leafy vegetables if boiled
* 90 percent of wheat in Japan is imported from overseas so most wheat products are safe.
I continue to avoid seaweed, rice, meat, fish and green tea from Japan.
Of course, we cannot know what we are eating in cafes and restaurants. Where possible I eat Italian and choose pasta. And I take my G & T`s without a lemon slice.
Other than that, I am trying to put it out of my mind and get on with teaching.
Time for my Spam pasta ....