While out on a run, I snapped the picture of bags that have been appearing around Abiko's beauty spot a few days before the second anniversary of March 11th. An army of bored middle-aged men were deployed with shovels and back hoes to remove the topsoil from 18km of verges of the walking and cycle path that snakes round the 18km of marsh known as Teganuma. I thought it was just the usual make-busy-work, end-of-the-financial-year-use-up-the-budget-before-they-cut-it routine in Japan, but apparently no, this was a matter of utmost importance. Although pictures of middle-aged men in back hoes makes for worse picture than bags of soil. At least the bags of soil convey an air of menace and mystery.
"Come on! Kill those spots!
Kill the mess!" yelled the cats.
And they jumped at the snow
With long rakes and red bats.
You see, those verges are radioactive. Well, everything is radioactive, but more than usual, dammit. Well, no one is exactly sure since nobody bothered to measure the verges for radioactivity before March 11th. And why should they have? But now the all topsoil from the verges are in bags. And if the soil was not much of a health hazard before (I don't recall anyone walking or cycling on the verges in the five years I've lived in Abiko, they tend to do that sort of thing on the asphalt path) it is now, because now we have a thousand bags of suspect soil that must be disposed of. Perhaps we could swap them with China for some of their yellow dust?
Oh, the things that they did!
And they did them so hard,
It was all one big spot now
All over the yard!
I'd ponder the significance of all this in my backyard, but then it too must be as radioactive as the verges, being no more than a kilometre away. And I measured my yard with a Geiger counter, and it is no more radioactive than Kansas and a lot less than Colorado. But perhaps I should scrape the topsoil up into great bags, just to be safe. Part of the be seen to be doing something rather than actually doing something of significance. Like this sample from the February 2013 Reconstruction Committee report (The 33-page report is here as a PDF if you suffer from insomnia):
It's been two years since the disaster, there are still 316,000 evacuees displaced living on folks' floors or in freezing, stinking metal temporary homes, but don't worry, "construction will get underway in due course." Why, 80% of districts are expecting to implement projects. I can hear the gratitude in evacuee ghettos all around: "Hey, kids don't worry about living out here in this newtown shithole in a stinking metal box, 'disaster stricken municipalities are devoting their energies to formulating reconstruction plans and reaching consensus among citizens'."
"Phew, that's a relief, Mother!"
"It will be, in due course, in due course."
Then the Voom...
It went VOOM!
And, oh boy! What a VOOM!
But it's all good now because Prime Minister Abe had a landslide. And now we can focus on important things like rocks in the ocean, rewriting the history of Japanese imperialism and building more nuclear power plants. Really, this is all going on now. And to think that I believed things might be different this time round, given how humbling the disaster was. How naive I was. I look at the essays in Reconstructing 3/11 written a year ago, and I see the sales job the Liberal Democratic Party did on 3/11 has gone largely unchallenged, and seems most folks are happy with that, they just want to move on. The ones that can.
Now, don't ask me what Voom is.
I never will know.
But, boy! Let me tell you
It DOES clean up snow!
Reconstructing 3/11 is available as a free download until March 14th, or a $9.99 print book forever more. Details and links are here. I recommend reading it, particularly if you labour under the illusion that Kan was a useless prime minister, the Japanese never protest, the Japanese media are more truthful than Western media, volunteers are not needed, business has no answers, Japan cannot change. Read it, it's just what the doctor ordered.