Saturday, July 2, 2011

02/07 VOX POPULI: Prefectural, municipal borders do not exist where radiation concerned

Vox Populi, Vox Dei is a daily column that runs on Page 1 of the vernacular Asahi Shimbun.

Takehiro Adachi of Hyogo Prefecture is a name I see frequently in the Haidan haiku section of the vernacular Asahi Shimbun. One of his works goes: "The straight-line distance from the nuclear power plant/ Leaves me cold."

The Fukushima disaster in March was not what inspired Adachi to write this. It was penned four years ago and became the No. 1 pick of Tota Kaneko, a member of Haidan's panel of judges.
"The poem could not be more succinct," Kaneko commented.

Adachi brought out a map and placed one leg of a pair of compasses on Fukui Prefecture's "Genpatsu Ginza," or the area where many nuclear reactors are located, and traced a circle around it. Then, he found that his home was within a radius of 50 to 60 kilometers from the area. Getting there by car or train requires long detours around mountains and rivers, but as the crow flies, the distance is short. The discovery left Adachi cold.

Ever since the March disaster, I imagine many people around the country have been feeling the same chill upon finding out the straight-line distance between their homes and nuclear power plants.

Economy minister Banri Kaieda recently visited Saga Prefecture to request the restart of two nuclear reactors at the Genkai nuclear power plant that were shut down before March 11 for regular inspections. Having heard his explanation, both the prefectural government and Genkai town are reportedly considering giving the green light. But I wonder how the story sounded to people who are worried sick about the proximity of their communities to the plant. Where radiation is concerned, prefectural and municipal borders do not exist.

"The Japanese government will take responsibility for the plant's safety," Kaieda promised. Obviously, it still hasn't occurred to the government that its credibility has been shot down by the Fukushima accident. But Saga Governor Yasushi Furukawa said, "We were able to confirm the safety." I must say he is too trusting of the central government.

The word "osumitsuki" (guarantee) is said to originate from documents that are written in black ink (sumi) and issued by a feudal lord to his loyal subjects to guarantee lands. Today, however, the government's guarantee is unreliable--written with watery pale ink.

Everybody is unsure what to believe now. Any haste by the government will only invite further popular distrust.

In May, the Kadan poetry section of The Asahi Shimbun ran this piece by Toko Mihara of the city of Fukushima: "How round the hazy moon/ Viewed from within a concentric circle around the nuclear plant."

In our country with 18 nuclear power plants, there are 18 invisible concentric circles.

--The Asahi Shimbun, July 1

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Vox Populi, Vox Dei is a popular daily column that takes up a wide range of topics, including culture, arts and social trends and developments. Written by veteran Asahi Shimbun writers, the column provides useful perspectives on and insights into contemporary Japan and its culture.

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