2020 Olympic Torch Relay

Did you realize that next year the Summer Olympics will be held in Tokyo? Yes! The country is gearing up for it. It’s a little controversial here, though because some people feel that Japan is spending money on the Olympics, but hasn’t done enough to improve the conditions along the coast of Tohoku—people are still affected by the aftermath of the quake/tsunami. And also, there’s the nuclear plant situation in my own prefecture.

But anyway, before getting to the main part of this post, I’d like to tell you about the route of the torch. During every Olympics, a torch of fire is brought from Greece to the country hosting the games. Runners/walks carry it by hand along a route, handing it off to each other–this usually takes several months. At the very end of the relay, a famous person (usually an athlete from the host country) takes the torch on its very last leg and then lights the Olympic in the arena. That fire–from Greece–will burn throughout the duration of the Olympic Games. (About two weeks.)

https://tokyo2020.org/en/special/torch/olympic/schedule/

Above, I’ve posted a link to the schedule for the torch. First it comes from Greece, then it is on display in Ishinomaki City. Ishinomaki City was HEAVILY hit by the tsunami. It’s only there for one day. Too short! Can’t they extend the time it’s on display?

On March 24, it will also be on display super close to where I live–the east exit of Fukushima Station. Unless something happens, I’m sure I will go there and take a peek (and a photo.)

A couple days later, the relay of the torch will officially begin. No more cushy plane travel! No more fun locomotive rides! From now on, that torch will be hoofing it. The torch relay starts at J-Village in eastern Fukushima Prefecture AND THIS IS WHERE MY POST BEGINS.


J-Village was the training camp for the Japan national soccer league. So the J-Village was a Very Big Deal.

Unfortunately, J-Village straddled Hirono and Naraha, an area very close to the power plant which melted down. Thus, being in the Exclusion Zone, J-Village was unusable as a sports facility after the meltdowns occured.

Here’s a map of the areas with high radiation (Exclusion Zone) back in 2011. (from this link: https://www.pref.fukushima.lg.jp/site/portal-english/en03-08.html )Image : Transition of evacuation instruction zones 1.

It’s been eight years since the meltdowns and the levels of radiation have decreased during that time period. In some areas, the level has decreased to amounts that are considered safe. By “safe,” I mean the same level found in other parts of the world. thus, The powers-that-be are reopening areas of the Exclusion Zone.

(This is good news for the residents who DO want to return to their home.)

From that same link, here is the Exclusion Zone as of April, 2017:

Current evecuation ordered zones

You can see the boundaries of the Exclusion Zone have indeed changed from 2011 to 2017.

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So anyway, after the meltdowns in March of 2011, J-Village was (temporarily) transformed into a base for TEPCO (the Tokyo owner of the nuclear power plant.) Here is an article from 2011 about this: https://blogs.wsj.com/japanrealtime/2011/11/11/j-village-the-view-from-inside/ (Remember, this article is old!) Here a different article from 2014: https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/japan/10829609/Fukushimas-nuclear-workers-base-to-reopen-as-2020-Olympics-training-facility.html

In recent years, the J-Village was cleaned up so that it could be used again for recreational purposes. Early this year, 2019 it was reopened to be used again as a sports facility. It is no longer in the Exclusion Zone, and that means anybody can go there. The radiation levels of J-Village are now considered (by the government) to be safe. I’ve posted links to a couple articles about the reopening of J-Village.

http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201904200045.html

https://english.kyodonews.net/news/2019/04/1c02bbf74a48-j-village-national-soccer-training-facility-fully-reopens.html

So anyway, the torch relay will begin at J-Village.

Is that area safe?

Well, I went to safecast.org https://blog.safecast.org/ to look at the current radiation in Hirono (home of J-Village.)

Here are the current results (morning of June 10, 2019)

Hirono (J-Village’s town has a radiation level of .13 or .11 microsieverts per hour. (I think that safecast uses two different radiation detectors in the same location. That’s why there are two different results.)

Here is Tomioka Town’s reading (a little north of the J-Village, and closer to Daiichi Nuclear Power plant): .33 or .38 microsieverts per hour.

In comparison—-

I picked a location outside of Japan at random— Honolulu, Hawaii has .09 microsieverts per hour. You can look at other places on the Safecast map.

 

From Canada’s nuclear safety guidelines http://www.nuclearsafety.gc.ca/eng/resources/fact-sheets/natural-background-radiation.cfm :

“The total worldwide average effective dose from natural radiation is approximately 2.4 millisieverts per year; in Canada, it is 1.8 millisieverts per year.”

I’m changing that to the equivalent in microsieverts per hour, so it will mesh with all the other numbers I’ve given in this post:  “The total worldwide average effective dose from natural radiation is approximately .273 microsieverts per hour; in Canada, it is .205 microsieverts per hour.”

So based on those numbers from Canada, the J-Village seems safe to me. I’m just looking at the numbers, though, strictly from a mathematical point of view.

Where was the Prime Minister of Japan during the moment the Big Quake hit Japan?

The exact moment the Big Quake struck, I myself was lazing on our sofa reading “Kindred” by Octavia Butler on the Kindle my husband had given to me the previous the Christmas. In hindsight, I am really happy I was home at that moment. (Since it meant that I could immediately run to my son’s elementary school and check to make sure the kids were okay. They were, at least physically.)

But what was the prime minister of Japan doing that afternoon?

First of all, it was a different prime minister than the one Japan has now (Prime Minister Abe–2019.) In 2011, it was Prime Minister Kan.

Prime Minister Kan was in a Diet Meeting in Tokyo.

Cameras were on (filming the meeting) and it was caught on video. Keep in mind that this is Tokyo. And the actual epicenter was closer to the Sendai City area.  (The epicenter was in the ocean floor which is the reason there was such a huge tsunami.) Sendai City is far north of Tokyo, about two hours away…on bullet train! It’s a several hour car ride from Tokyo to the Sendai area. So you can imagine how much worse the shaking worse for people in the Sendai City area. The city in which I live is north of Tokyo, and Sendai City is north of ME!

There is a warning at the beginning of the video…but I think the video is okay for older (mature) kids. It shows shaking, but does not show tsunami or fire. Everybody is very confused, but nobody appears to get physcially hurt.

 

At the beginning, immediately after the woman runs to the fountain with her camera, the video switches to Prime Minister Kan. He’s sitting in a chair, apparently waiting, looking at the chandelier.

To be honest, that’s pretty normal behavior for all of us in Japan. Anybody who lives here in Japan experiences quakes. They are part of life. When a quake happens, what most people do (me, too) is just sort of wait—because the quake (until this one!) always goes away after a few seconds. A man like Kan (or any Japanese person his age) has probably experienced hundreds, possibly thousands, of quakes–none of which were dangerous.

Also, because he’s in Tokyo, I doubt he’s feeling it as hard as what I felt. The 3/11 quake was very, very long–it crescendoed. You can see in the video that–instead of dissipating–the shaking increases and the people in the room realize it’s stronger than a regular quake, not the normal kind that everybody has felt many times during their lives.

It appears to me that slightly after the one minute mark is when everybody in the room realize it’s a very serious, dangerous quake.

The video stops in mid-quake at exactly 1:25, then continues after the quake is over. Obviously it’s been editted. I guess maybe people in the room were embarrassed that they acted like wusses, so that part was cut out? I don’t know. I acted like a wuss, too. Not embarrassed to say that.

Then I don’t know…more shaking or something? An aftershock? I don’t know. Or maybe it was the camera shaking. LOL. Because of the break in footage, it’s hard for me to know the timeline.

Prime Minister Kan leaves the room. The video ends.

A word of warning. Do NOT go looking for footage yourself on youtube. Youtube is NOT a child-friendly place, and you don’t want to see things that really you (or I) should not see………

American girl bitten by bear in western Fukushima Prefecture…

Last April (2019) I was walking here in Fukushima City’s BentenYama (a wooded area) and I saw a kamoshika. I posted about it on this blog because it was so unusual to see one there.

Then I went to the U.S. to attend my niece’s wedding in May. At that time, my husband told me the news was that a bear was spotted on Bentenyama! https://translate.google.com/translate?hl=en&sl=ja&u=https://www.fnn.jp/posts/00073403FTV&prev=search (The original article is in Japanese, but I hit the “translate” button so English readers can understand it.)

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And now, in the Aizuwakamatsu area (in Fukushima Prefecture, but west of me,) a fifteen-year-old American girl was bitten by a bear. But don’t worry! It’s a “light injury” (news reports says: karui kega) and she’ll be fine. Thank goodness! Bears DO LIVE here in Tohoku. So don’t think they don’t!!!!! Spring is supposed to be the most dangerous time. The bears have just woken from hibernation, they’re grumpy and hungry.

Here’s an article about the bear biting in Japanese:

http://www.news24.jp/nnn/news162132613.html

The following article is meant to be read in Japanese, but I hit the “translate” button and the computer translated it to English. (I did this so English readers can read it.) https://translate.google.com/translate?hl=en&sl=ja&u=https://www.fnn.jp/posts/2019060700000004FTV&prev=search

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I just searched for an English version of this news on both Google Japan and American Yahoo, and can’t find one. I’m sure there will be one soon.

Nuclear Power Stuff–Foreigners working to clean up Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant (?)

Before I get to the topic of this post, I want to mention that that there are not many foreigners living/working in Japan.

Usually, Japanese people themselves do the blue-collar jobs in Japan. However, the population is aging here and there aren’t enough workers, so it’s been decided by the government to bring in workers from foreign countries to do some of these dirty/dangerous/low-paying (etc.) jobs.

The benefit for the foreign worker is that he (I think it’s usually a “he”) can earn more money than he can in his own country. Eventually, he’ll return to his country and he will have more wealth than he would have earned if he had not come to Japan.

Here is an article about this:

https://english.kyodonews.net/news/2018/12/52a397ab6024-update3-japan-parliament-passes-bill-to-accept-more-foreign-workers.html

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So TEPCO (Tokyo Electric Power Company–the owner of the failed power plant Daiichi) must decommision the Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. (Clean it up.) It was considering hiring foreigners for this job. A huge problem, however, is that foreigners can be easily exploited (and have been exploited in the past.)

This article is from April 2019

https://english.kyodonews.net/news/2019/04/b839c3aba30f-tepco-eyes-using-foreign-workers-at-crisis-hit-fukushima-daiichi-plant.html

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Here is an editorial written in response:

https://www.msn.com/en-sg/news/other/editorial-safety-language-measures-needed-for-foreigners-to-work-at-fukushima-plant/ar-BBWeBuB

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But now, as of May 2019, it’s up in the air whether foreigners will be hired for the decommissioning of the Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant.

https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2019/05/23/national/tepco-wont-hire-foreign-nationals-new-visas-fukushima-nuclear-work-safety-guaranteed/#.XPBv4fZuJhE

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My own opinion?

I agree that if foreigners are hired to help clean the plant, those foreigners will almost certainly be exploited. The foreigners who do these blue-collar type jobs will not know either the English language or the Japanese language and so from a communication point of view, it will be a dangerous undertaking to hire them to work in a high-radiation environment.

In addition, I know from experience as a foreigner in Japan, often I have no idea what’s going on.  Japanese people are not good about informing foreigners of important issues. Japan is very much a We Japanese society, so I can only imagine that TEPCO thinks of these foreign men as expendable. TEPCO won’t say that, of course, but they’ll be thinking it.

TEPCO was responsible for preventing any quake or tsunami from wreaking havoc on the plant. It failed in its duty in March of 2011. TEPCO still owns the plant, but I do not trust TEPCO, not one single bit. So no, I can’t imagine that TEPCO will be considering the best interests of the foreign workers. TEPCO will likely exploit them as much as they can get away with.

 

Nuclear Power Plant Stuff—Fears of Terrorism may lead to shutdowns of power plants (?)

Having been in America, I haven’t been posting much related to the nuclear situation.

By the way, don’t you love the way I worded my title for this post? “Nuclear Power Stuff.” You can tell I have a way with words.

Here’s an article that appeared in my Japanese newspaper for kids (Yomiuri Kodomo Shinubun) on May 2, 2019.

What the article is saying is that nuclear power plants can be vulnerable to terrorism, and thus may be shut down.

Regarding this topic, here is an article from the Mainichi news online: https://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20190424/p2g/00m/0dm/067000c

Here’s an article from the China Daily about this:

http://global.chinadaily.com.cn/a/201904/24/WS5cc04625a3104842260b81d6.html

An opinion piece (editorial) from Asahi Newspaper: http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201904200025.html

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(Totally off topic, but as a student of the Japanese language, I find it fascinating that in the article “uranium” is uran ウラン.

A quck check of a dictionary shows that both uran ウラン and uranium ウラニウム are acceptable translations for the English word “uranium.”)