Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Evacuation Challenges

Masashi sent the following e-mail about the challenges that Iitate citizens face as they cope with the necessity to evacuate their homes.

"Iitate village is currently facing various difficulties and challenges. It has become apparent that it is really difficult to evacuate within the short period suggested by the national government. Mayor Kanno expressed his concerns to a media reporter that it is impossible to complete the evacuation within a month. It takes time to find places and homes for this kind of long-term evacuation.

The village’s office also needs to move out of Iitate. It will temporary move to Iino district of Fukushima city after the completion of the evacuation.

Currently, the biggest issue is the livestock industry. On May 4th, the cattle raising corporation in Iitate decided to close their operation and sell all its 300 cattle. There are about 2,600 cattle in Iitate and farmers are facing difficulties relocating them to continue their cattle farming. It has created a critical situation for the Iitate brand of beef.

In early May, the dairy organization gave up keeping cows in Iitate and on May 9th, all milk cows were sent to the slaughter house. Farmers expressed their sorrow at this misfortune which had fallen upon their cows. For them cows are not just animals but their family members.

Compensation schemes for farmers are under discussion by the government."

Masashi also attached some recently released data showing the level of cesium on the surface of the soil. It shows that the southern part of Iitate shows higher levels (you can view the map by clicking here). The Japanese Ministry of Education (MEXT) and the USA Department of Energy collaborated to assess the radiation levels using aircraft. You can access their website via the following link:

Monday, May 9, 2011

Possible Summer Camp in Canada for Evacuated Children

I received a note from a Canadian student about a summer camp being considered for Japanese children who have been evacuated from their homes. It is initiated through students and researchers at the University of British Columbia ( They are particularly interested in making contact with municipalities in the affected areas. If you know of interested people or groups, please contact Dr. Julian Dierkes (

A brief description of the project is below:

A Summer Camp for Evacuated Children

As a community of students and researchers with strong links to Japan from the University of British Columbia, we would like to offer our services to contribute to relief efforts in the regions affected by the triple disaster of March 11. Through long-standing connections with juku teachers and operators as well as through inclusion of JET-alumni with teaching experience in Japan in our efforts, we are hoping to organize a summer camp for evacuated children during the upcoming summer vacation. Ideally, this would accommodate a significant number of children in a location away from Tohoku to give the children an activity to look forward to during the summer, as well as to offer their parents some time to attend to pressing matters associated with their evacuation.

Planned activities would include teaching and learning activities designed in collaboration between experience juku teachers and JET alumni, as well as structured play activities. We hope to draw on the advice or participation of post-traumatic counsellors in designing activities that would be appropriate as well as helpful to participating students.

We are now seeking direct links with municipalities and/or schools in affected regions to discuss the possibility of such a camp. In addition to the volunteering of project participants as teachers, we hope to be able to raise the funds to offer free participation (including transportation and room & board) to students in a week-long camp.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Evacuation procedures for Iitate

Masashi sent the following information regarding the evacuation procedures for Iitate village.
"On April 22, the Japanese prime minister officially announced the inclusion of Iitate village into the evacuation area. They are designated to complete the evacuation within a month (by the end of May). The national government dispatched several public officers to set up a task force for evacuation within the Iitate village office. They are expected to help Iitate village to complete this evacuation smoothly.

Iitate village also announced the basic principles for evacuation and set a priority of residents to be evacuated. Families with babies or pregnant woman should be given first priority, and then families with person aged less than 18 years old, and three districts which showed higher level of radioactivity. All residents would be eventually evacuated to hotels or apartment houses designated by the village. Gymnastic halls, typically used for temporal shelters after the disaster, are not used in this case."

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Iitate Mayor meets with the Prime Minister

Masashi reported the following.

"Today (April 19) Japan's Prime Minister, Mr. Kan Naoto, met with Iitate mayor Mr. Kanno at the Prime Minister's office in Tokyo. The Prime Minister explained the situation of the nuclear power plant and background of the decision to designate Iitate village and several other municipalities as part of the evacuation areas. Mayor Kanno argued there is such a huge risk arising from the evacuation of the whole village, and asked the Prime Minister to understand this kind of hardship. Prime Minister Kan apologized to him and asked for Mayor Kanno's cooperation for this evacuation plan."

Monday, April 18, 2011

Iitate plans for evacuation

Masashi provided this update of the evacuation plans for Iitate.

"On April 16 and 17, Iitate village received a series of visits by officials of Cabinet Secretariat, including Mr. Edano, Chief Cabinet Secretariat, and Mr. Fukuyama, Vice Chief Cabinet Secretariat. In Iitate village, Mr. Edano discussed the government plan for evacuation with Mayor Kanno and residents. Participants of the meeting have raised their deep concerns on their future, and expressed their discomfort with the way in which the government announced the evacuation plan without prior notice to the village. Mr. Fukuyama mentioned the plan to move Iitate cattle to another place to continue their livestock farming. However, some farmers feel it is very difficult to do that, and the brand name of Iitate beef would be difficult to maintain. Already Iitate beef is suffering from lower price because of this situation.

On April 12, the village’s assembly (parliament) had a meeting with village officials and agricultural cooperatives, and adopted a resolution to stop all kinds of planting this year.

Between April 13 and 16, Iitate village had a series of community meetings on how to respond to the evacuation plan. There was much discussion, but there was so much uncertainty in terms of the impact of radiation, the duration of the evacuation, the lingering negative image to Iitate products, the level of compensation from the electric company and government, and so on.

On April 17, Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) released their working plan for the restoration of the nuclear power plant. Based on their plan, it takes about 6 to 9 months to restore the plant and establish a containment system of radioactive materials. This means radiation would continue to spill out throughout this year or even until early next year. It is crucial to estimate how much radioactive materials, such as cesium, would be accumulated around the plant by the end of this year, and assess the impact on farming and fishing."

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Crisis assessment raised to Level 7

Masashi sent the following e-mail today.

"Today (April 12) the government released the result of a reassessment of the crisis level of the Fukushima nuclear plant. It is set to "Level 7". This is the highest level based on the international standard. Level 7 is the same level as the Chernobyl disaster. While the government emphasized the differences from Chernobyl - where a catastrophic explosion of the reactor chamber occurred, this reassessment is now taken very seriously in Japan and abroad. This will have far-reaching impacts on the economy. Also this indicates that complete stabilization of the plant may still take a long time."

Monday, April 11, 2011

Iitate village now under evacuation orders

Masashi e-mailed me today with the following news.

"Today (April 11) the Japanese government announced an expansion of the evacuation zone, and Iitate village as a whole is now included in that zone. This newly added zone is designated based on data suggesting that residents would be exposed to more than 20 milli Sv per year if this situation continues. Four other municipalities or parts of them in Fukushima prefecture were also included in the zone. Residents are requested to evacuate within a month. Now Iitate residents have come to face a very big problem.

Today, we also had rather large aftershocks: one of them was 7.1 magnitude, exactly once month later of the 3.11 earthquake.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Concordia students win award for Japanese support

Upon receiving news of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan, a group of students at Concordia university organized a fund-raising campaign - selling baked goods and gathering contributions. On Friday, their hard work was recognized with a Concordia Council on Student Life Award. They have decided to pass on their contributions to Peace Winds Japan - the same group with which Mao has been working over the last few months. I have attached a photo of the group that I took at the awards ceremony. Tomoe, one of the members, is currently in Japan pursuing her PhD work so she was unable to be in the photo.

Mayor Kanno on Iitate's future

Masashi sent the following message today.

"Today (April 9) the Agricultural Minister, Mr. Kano, visited Iitate village and other rural areas affected by the earthquake and discussed the rehabilitation measures for the future. News media reported that Iitate mayor Kanno proposed to the Minister that biofuel crops, such as rapeseed or sunflowers would be one of the options in Iitate village, and the mayor hopes Iitate can develop an excellent rehabilitation model based on cooperation among industry/government/academics in order to survive the current nuclear crisis.

The Ministry of Agriculture (MAFF) announced on April 8 that rice planting should be suspended this year in paddy fields that show higher levels of radiation (over 5,000 Bq/kg of cesium in the soil). In addition, harvested rice in other areas which show lower levels should have their radiation levels tested before selling.

With respect to Peter’s questions regarding the rural market and Awano’s situation, I do not have enough information to answer them in a satisfactory fashion.
However, it seems to me that recovering the rural market would take time. It will be a long process and we do not see how long it takes at this point. It is no exaggeration to say that no one in Japan can escape from the huge impact of the earthquake. Huge damage has affected the fishing, farming, manufacturing, and tourist industries, and so on in Japan. The loss of foreign labourers would affect various sectors in Japan. It is difficult to say when they would decide to return to Japan under the current condition of the Fukushima nuclear plant. The government has proposed various types of transitional loans with lower interest rates, and compensation schemes to affected industries. A recently released plan for the first supplementary budget reached more than US$30 billion. In order to overcome this critical situation, the current ruling party (Democratic Party) is seeking an alliance with the LDP (Liberal Democratic Party), the former ruling party. It is referred to as a grand alliance. The political game has now begun."

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Soil, evacuation, and fishing update

Masashi sent the following e-mail yesterday.

"Yesterday (April 6), Fukushima prefecture released the results of the soil tests. The soil samples were taken from 70 sites within the prefecture. Again, soil taken from Iitate village has shown the highest level of cesium (15,301 Bq/kg) which is 150 times higher than the safe limit. Soil samples taken from 6 other municipalities also showed higher cesium than the safe limit. Based on these results, the prefectural government asked farmers in these areas not to start farming. Farmers living in other municipalities excluding 8 municipalities around the nuclear plant can start farming now. The prefectural government continues the soil study and will take soil samples again from these municipalities.

The Japanese government (Nuclear Safety Commission) is now providing new guidelines for evacuation. The upper limit for the accumulated exposure of radiation is 20 Sv/year. Even outside of the evacuation zone (less than 20 km from the nuclear plant) or indoor stay zone (20-30 km), the exposure exceeds this 20 Sv/year limit in some areas. Based on these new guidelines, on April 6, Iitate village decided to evacuate pregnant women and babies outside the village. They will be given shelters in Fukushima city provisionally for about one month. Since it seems to take time to complete the containment measures of radioactive materials at the power plant, Iitate village and other municipalities will need to take further actions to evacuate residents outside of these areas.

The fishing industry in Fukushima and now Ibaraki prefectures is severely affected by the power plant. Fish caught in the Pacific Ocean near Ibaraki showed high levels of radioactive cesium (526 Bq/kg). After this detection, all fishing activities are suspended in Ibaraki prefecture.

One of the hot topics yesterday (April 6) was criticism against action taken by officials of the power plant who poured contaminated water into the sea without prior notice to the prefectural government and fishing companies. After a series of detections of high level radioactive iodine and cesium in the sea water near Fukushima, consumption of raw fish is gradually affected by these incidents.

Radiation in fish caught off Ibaraki hits local fishing industry (Mainichi Daily News)"

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Peter Apedaile sent in the following comments and questions. As usual, they are stimulating and positive. Thanks, Peter.

"Lots of good news of success and raw courage. Talked with Nobuhiro the other day and he reported that supply chains have been repaired for food and that main railline and highway transport have been mostly restored. We talked about weak government and whether this calamity will be a game changer as far as regionalizing politics is concerned. Will prefecture governors become the new power-brokers as the recent elections suggest? Will the emphasis on self reliance for coping with the disaster shift the funding formulas for local rural government away from dependence on central government handouts? Is the whole dysfunctional national party structure so shaken by the disaster that it may be replaced by something like territorial coalitions of interests? Could a national unity problem be on the horizon?

I wonder if Masashi could comment on progress in restoring rural markets. Has financing been put in place for interrupted cash flows and farm/commerce/SME debt servicing? It seems so important to get people back to work and to restore income flows. It is important to tackle any sense of hopelessness over rural debt obligations while the local economy recovers. Can the precautionary market bans be reversed safely yet? And in Awano, have the auto parts plants reopened? How 'normal' is life in Awano and Iitate?

How is Mayor Kanno and his team doing? Are they dealing with radiation refugees? Has he any requests for what we could 'work on' that would help him out as his emphasis shifts to economic restoration and revitalization?"

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Tsunamis and Japanese Literature

I'm a little late in posting this e-mail from Masashi that he sent last weekend. It includes a lovely story about the way in which tsunamis are part of the narrative and literary history of Japan.

"This time Miyagi, Iwate, and Fukushima prefectures had devastating damage from the tsunami. Among these three prefectures, Iwate has experienced many tsunami disasters in the past. In 1896, Iwate prefecture had a tsunami disaster that was believed to be the largest tsunami disaster until the latest earthquake happened.

Irish novelist Lafcadio Hearn, very popular in Japan under his Japanese name, Yakumo Koizumi, wrote a short story just after the 1896 tsunami disaster. In this short novel you can see the Japanese way of life and religious beliefs of the old days.

The latter part of the story was written based on an anecdote of another tsunami that happened in Wakayama prefecture in the southern part of Honsyu (biggest) island of Japan. That anecdote was rewritten by a Japanese teacher and adopted as part of a Japanese elementary school textbook before WWII. [The story tells how a village leader saved villagers from a tsunami disaster by sacrificing his rice harvest.]

You can read "A LIVING GOD" written by Lafcadio Hearn via the following link.

I just happened to read this story quite recently. It really shows us how the tsunami is an inevitable part of Japanese history and we need to pass on our experience from generation to generation."

Saturday, April 2, 2011

An update from the field

Mao has now been in the field working for Peace Winds - Japan. She has taken time out from her activities to give us a brief update on her situation. I have included it below.

In it she mentions an "introduction". This refers to an e-mail I sent introducing her to Tomoe - a Concordia student I met at the fund-raising table set up by Concordia students to support the Japanese recovery. Tomoe and her friends were selling baking goods to raise these funds. They have also decided to send their proceeds to Peace Winds - Japan: the organization for which Mao is working. I was delighted to discover these connections among our students.

"Thank you very much for your introduction yet I'm really sorry that I couldn't respond to you sooner. I'm occupied with so much work right now as you can imagine, and I don't have time to check e-mails often - especially after the Bill Gates Foundation announced that they will make a donation to Mercy Corps and Peace Winds of over 1 billion yen to reconstruct Japan. You can imagine how much work it will allow us to do, but we have to plan really carefully.

Yet, I'd like to share this link- Peace Winds Japan was mentioned in a New York Times online article
This article identifies the youth involvement in the disaster relief so that I thought your student might be interested in it.

I also had another interview with the German press. I hope that the world doesn't forget about the Japanese disaster yet. I also want to remind your readers that the nuclear power plant is not the only issue here.

What I am surprised and impressed the most in the field is Tohoku people's strong passion for their home town, the high quality knowledge and skills of their work, their passion for the work, and love for one another. Even after this much disaster, the people still want to reconstruct their houses, fish, and get back to a normal life in their home town.

In order to do so, people are NOT just the victims of this earthquake, they are already starting the reconstruction on their own - at the individual level. We are not here to save them, but we are here to fill in the gaps so that they can manage things on their own.

This is really encouraging and also impressive - and definitely keeps us going in our work."

Thank you for this update, Mao - and best wishes for your work!

Good news - and the difficulty of getting accurate information

Masashi has pointed out the difficulty of getting accurate and timely information in a context that changes so quickly. He also reports that the drinking water situation has improved in Iitate village. His comments are below.

"Yesterday (April 1), the IAEA updated their analysis on radioactive materials in Iitate's soil, and the detected level of radioactive iodine (7 million Bq/m2) is below the IAEA's safe limits (10 million Bq/m2). This result is based on the analysis using 15 soil data collected by the Japanese government between March 19 and 29.

It is really confusing to have this kind of totally opposite messages. However, the nature of the distribution of radioactive materials takes such a sporadic pattern, it seems understandable to have different results if we calcurate averages using different samples.

Iitate village released a short announcement on March 31. On April 1st, this short announcement mentioned the first version of the IAEA's statement and the opinion of the Japanese government on this IAEA's analysis. Facing these conflicting views, Iitate village will continue watching the data collected within the village.

Also it announced that tap water is now drinkable in Iitate since the level of radioactive material is below 100 Bq/kg. However, they still recommend using bottled water which is distributed by the village for babies.

Iitate's short announcement No.2 (April1st) can be viewed via the following link (In Japanese only)">http://">

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Iitate village in the news

The International Atomic Energy Agency urged the reassessment of the situation in Iitate village after finding that radiation levels were above safe limits. This echos the calls from Greenpeace a few days ago.The IAEA head of nuclear safety and security, Denis Flory, stated that "The first assessment indicates that one of the IAEA operational criteria for evacuation is exceeded in Iitate village." The head of that Agency's Incident and Emergency Centre added that the megabecquerels per square metre were a ratio about two times higher than levels at which the IAEA recommends evacuations.

More extensive details of the issue can be seen in the Montreal Gazette report via

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

English language website established

Masachi informed me that an English-language site has been established by the Fukushima prefecture. It provides extensive information on the current situation, emergency action, precautions, and even volunteer options. His message is below.

"The Fukushima prefectural government has created an English website related to the earthquake and the situation of radioactive materials. The following is the link/

Emergency Information from the Disaster Provision Main Office of Fukushima Pref

The website contains information of detected levels of radioactive materials in each sub-region of Fukushima prefecture. Iitate-village's data is shown there and you can see the results for each day.

Prefectural districts : Measurement value of the environmental radioactivity (provisional value)

As of March 30, the above site shows the results. Iitate's level is still higher than the other areas outside of the designated evacuation area.

The Fukushima prefectural government will start testing soils to check radioactive materials from March 31. Samples of soils will be taken from 70 sites in all municipalities. The results will be released around April 6th.

Last night (March 29), the Nuclear Safety Commission of Japan (under the Cabinet Office) expressed their view on how long it takes to cool down the nuclear plant. They said it would take years. They also mentioned that fixing up the circulation system of coolant should be completed within 1-2 years. It is really a long term disaster..."

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Struggling to maintain hope

Masashi sent the following message today.

"Today (March 29), I heard some sad news from Fukushima - that one farmer had committed suicide in despair over his lost harvest of cabbage due to the suspension of sales caused by the nuclear accident. We are hearing both good news and bad news related to the power plant and cannot see how long it will take to fully stabilize the plants. So we are afraid many farmers will lose hope.

The other bad news released today is that plutonium was found near the plant (within the surrounding yard). While the level of plutonium is very low, this indicates some problem of the containment system of the plant. If so, recovery of the plant may take an even longer time.

The earthquake affected a very large area, including 5 prefectures facing the Pacific Ocean and extending more than 500 km in length. The size caused many problems with the delivery of relief supplies, communication, the disparity of the type of aid required, the length of time required to build temporary housing, and so on. In Miyagi prefecture, the amount of rubble is said to be so huge that the amount is as much as the rubble normally accumulated over 23 years!! The large amount of rubble covers such large areas that one cannot find enough space to build these temporary houses. This is because the area where the tsunami created the greatest damage was located in fishing communities with only small amounts of flat land.

The national government is now trying to dispatch public officers at every level of government with expertise to help affected municipalities support administrative work or disaster relief activities. Municipal governments in the area are facing many problems caused by the disaster under the condition of fewer officials (since many officials became victims of the tsunami), loss of offices, loss of data, and so on. One municipal government lost its residents' registry as a result of the tsunami and therefore cannot exactly identify who is missing."

Monday, March 28, 2011

Dr. Peter Apedaile's reflections

I received some thoughtful comments from Dr. Peter Apedaile today. He reports on a conversation he has had with Dr. Tsuboi regarding possible responses to the crises in Japan. You are welcome to contribute to this conversation by clicking on the word "comments" at the end of any blog, then filling in the "Post a Comment" box which appears or by e-mailing me with a request to add your comment to the blog.

Peter wrote:
"Here is an edited cc of some thoughts with Nobuhiro. How can we academics, intellectuals, ex and current, make any difference? One way is to start thinking ahead beyond the tragedy of the moment. This is not heartless. But what options are opening? Mayor Kanno is responsible for on-the-spot action. Not a lot of time to think longer term. Can we be useful?

Since returning from Cuba last night, I have read many emails from friends in Japan and am so relieved that our CJ Family are well.

I am sure that the economy of Iitate-mura is devastated. I wonder what helpful advice we economists could offer to Mayor Kanno??? Of course if cesium radiation affects the whole Mura, perhaps it will have to be abandoned. It was always an option for such hilly and remote rural economies to become natural parks with minimum population density and focus on ecological amenities in the long run.

Iitate was slowly moving in this direction it seemed to me. Awano may have more options as long as cesium stays out of the picture. But here again, the game has changed. It seems useful to do some new thinking about a geographic strategy to disperse the location of industry in Japan. Awano already has a lot of intermediate SMEs of course. We can see how the concentration along the east coast with major concentrations in places like Sendai hurts the entire Japanese economy.

Since the Japan Plate is a reality, perhaps there is logic for expanding light industrial investment to more remote rural places without forgetting the vulnerability of transport infrastructure. A very small difference in the epicentre would have devastated the Tokyo part of the Japan economy. Chiba showed some of this threat with the fires.

Right now, the equity problems of Daichi Electric (loss of stock value) also apply to farms and businesses in Awano and Iitate. Will the banks help them too and in time? Japan's debt and deficit situation makes it hard to use public finance to help private recovery let alone for infrastructure and loss of tax revenue. How to unlock the savings from over-65 Japanese to finance economic recovery, when it is already tied up supporting the national debt??? Do we need to think of new types of global financing instruments for natural disasters too big for even a Japan??? Local options?

As a former mayor and councillor, I understand that Mayor Kanno is in charge of information when a disaster strikes. We must all understand that information in a disaster is a number one management problem for the Mayor. The press must not jump to spread the feeling of mistrust, as I have seen on CNN while in Cuba. He is correct to criticize the media for jump and run coverage of a rapidly changing scene, imperfect knowledge and huge remediation and response efforts to correct never-before-seen problems arising every minute.

Bravo to Mayor Kanno and many other municipal leaders, who survived to organize the crisis and start the recovery."

Message from Dr. Nakagawa

I received an e-mail from Dr. Mitsuhiro Nakagawa today outlining the difficulties faced by the Japanese people - along with an expression of their courage and strength. It is both daunting and inspiring.

"The scale of the earthquake was Magnitude 9.0. It is said to occur once in 1,000 years. We prepared the social infrastructure for an earthquake which will occur once in 100 years. This earthquake was too strong to manage. Many people died as a result of the Tsunami following the earthquake. I expect that the final number of deaths will be about 30,000.

The situation of the Fukushima nuclear power plant is still serious. But, I think that we overcame the worst part of the crisis through the water dropped by the army helicopters. The Emperor talked to the people by TV. It was inspirational for our soldiers.

It is the fate for Japanese people to encounter earthquakes because we live on the Japanese Plate. A huge amount of energy was released by this earthquake. We will achieve the restoration by bringing together our wisdom and courage."

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Radiation levels in Fukushima soils

Masashi wrote that on March 25th, the Fukushima prefectural government advised farmers in the prefecture not to start farming activities. This advice applies not just for Iitate, but for all areas in Fukushima. The Prefectural government asked farmers to delay their work and be prepared to change crop varieties to those which can be harvested later in the season. Farmers are asked not to cultivate soils because radioactive materials would disperse further.

Also the Japanese Ministry of Agriculture (MAFF) has given advice on how to deal with the vegetables and milk which have shown elevated radioactive materials. These products should not be incinerated or mixed into the soil. They should be accumulated at one site or left on the field. This means farmers cannot use or plant other crops on their fields.

Currently very little data is available regarding the accumulation of radioactive materials on farmland. Since the government cannot identify the time schedule until the stabilization of the nuclear plant, it is still very difficult to tell how large the contamination of soil will be in Fukushima and its neighbouring areas.
Based on current information provided by the media on the nuclear plant, it appears that it will take time to stabilize the plant completely. The government has already started to discuss how to compensate farmers in the affected regions.

[Announcements by Fukushima prefecture (Japanese only)]

[Japanese Ministry of Agriculture's (MAFF) information related to the earthquake (English)]

Saturday, March 26, 2011

A message from Mayor Kanno

Masashi wrote to inform us that Iitate mayor Mr Kanno reported on the situation of the village in a telephone interview by a Japanese TV news program (NHK's 9 p.m. news on March 26). Mr. Kanno expressed concerns about the the way in which various negative items are reported via the news media. For example, TV programs reported about the results of radioactive materials in Iitate without providing a detailed explanation to the village beforehand. Also, the simple announcement of results [regarding radioactive material from the soil, in particular] by TV news reporters creates very serious concerns for all the people involved - especially where there are no updates. This makes it very difficult for them to understand the situation.

Mr. Kanno's concern seems to be related to media reports that tend to focus on sensational news but do not provide further updates even if the situation improves. Mr. Kanno's comment seems to have made a strong impact on the interviewer of the TV program since the reporter mentioned that this kind of issue needs to be seriously taken into account from now on.

While the data regarding radioactive material in water and the environment gradually improves, the situation of Iitate's farming is still unpredictable. The agricultural cooperative in Iitate has asked farmers not to start spring farm work since the situation is still unclear. Usually around this time of year, preparatory work for rice farming begins. But farmers cannot start their work because of this request by the cooperatives.

Spring is a very important season for every farmer. This is also a very serious situation for all the farmers in neighbouring prefectures; Fukushima, Ibaraki, Gunma and Tochigi.

As for the radioactive material found inside sea water, extremely high levels of radiation were found near the plant today. Radioactive iodine levels were 1250 times higher than the allowable standard. It is ten times higher than it was 4 days ago.

The Nuclear Safety Commission explained that the materials would be diluted by sea water and radioactive iodine is quickly degraded as time passes, therefore, there is no urgent health risk even if people eat fish. However, we know many countries are beginning to stop importing seafood along with vegetables and milk from Japan.
It is very hard to understand this situation for lay people.

The toll of death and missing has reached more than 27,000 and is still increasing.
The evacuation zone (20 km radius from the power plant) has not been actively searched for missing people, so the death toll will definitely increase.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Signs of Improvement

Masashi wrote that the situation of Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant has been improving somewhat and the radioactivity level in Iitate has been decreasing day by day.

On March 15, the radioactivity level in the environment of Iitate had jumped from
0.139 micro Sv/h at 16:00 to 44.7 micro Sv/h at 18:20. This was the highest level to that date. After that high point, the level has declined day by day.

The most recent reading of the level (at 0:00 on March 26) is 9.36 micro Sv/h. This is a quarter of the peak level of March 15. It is still higher compared with those detected in other neighboring areas, but it seems to be improvement.

The result of monitoring environmental radioactive material can be found in the following website by Fukushima prefecture. It is in Japanese only, however,

Other good news is that there is a temporary resumption of fuel for automobiles. Three gas stations in Iitate now sell fuel to residents who have one of the certificates provided by Iitate village. However, the stations are only open for 3.5 hours on Saturday and Sunday so far.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Wind and Rain

Masashi sent another update today - this time providing some information about the conditions affecting the spread of radioactivity in the region.

He wrote that extremely high level of radioactive materials were found in Iitate which is about 30-40 km away from the nuclear plant. Today's Japanese TV program explained the mechanism by which Iitate had such a high level of radioactive materials. It is a combined effect of wind and rain. Radioactive materials tend to move sporadically and in an uneven manner. They tend to concentrate in certain areas depending on the weather conditions.

Iitate was affected by the weather condition of March 20th (south-east wind and rain afterward). Attached is the map of the eastern part of Fukushima prefecture showing the regions for evacuation and the region where they are advised to stay indoors. You can see from this map that only the southeast corner of Iitate is within the latter zone.

There are many concerns about the radioactive materials detected in vegetables and tap water that are spread along the food chain, through restaurants and importers of Japanese food. For example, one major Italian restaurant chain restaurant has announced it will stop using vegetables grown at its own farms in Fukushima.

Details of restrictive measures to distribute vegetables can be found at the website of Ministry of Health.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Iitate and Peace Winds news

I received two e-mails today - one about Iitate from Masashi and another from Peace Winds America about the work they are doing in the region.

Masashi wrote that the March 23 newspaper reported that high levels of radioactive caesium were found from soil taken at Iitate village on March 20th. It is 163,000 Bq per 1 kg of soil, which is four times higher than the permitted level within the designated radioactive control area. Caesium is very slow to degrade, so it is a great concern for farmers.

Today the Japanese government has suspended the sale of several additional types of vegetables and raw milk produced in the four prefectures, i.e., Fukushima (Iitate is part of this prefecture), Gunma, Tochigi, Ibaraki. This is also a significant blow to farmers in these areas. The growing season of many crops is approaching so many people are concerned with this situation.

Tap water in other areas is also affected, Today, 210 Bq of radioactive material (iodine) was found in tap water in northern Tokyo. This level exceeds the 100 Bq which is the maximum level for drinking water for babies. The Tokyo metropolitan government decided to distribute bottled water to families with baby less than
12 month old. Wind and rain seem to contribute to the expansion of the affected area.

Because of the news regarding radioactive materials in drinking water, mineral water is sold out in many shops in Tokyo (see picture).

The earthquakes have not ended. We had 3 large aftershocks today.

Since the Tokyo area is still under such a disrupted condition, 26 embassies of foreign countries in Tokyo have already closed and gone to their home countries or moved out to other cities of Japan, such as Osaka and Hiroshima.

Mao wrote to tell me that she is off to the field tomorrow - with officials from Mercy Corps. She sent a message to Peace Winds America about the tax deduction issue, and I received the following information from them regarding their work and registration.

"I wanted to let you know that if Peace Winds America receives donations for the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami, 100% is passed to Peace Winds Japan, our sister organization. Donations are tax-deductible but that may not be of use in Canada unless someone is also filing US taxes. Not sure of the Canadian tax rules.

Ms. Sato and the other Peace Winds Japan staff are working 24/7 helping to respond to the disaster. We have focused our efforts on four cities--two in Miyagi prefecture (Kesennuma and Minamisanriku) and two in Iwate prefecture (Ofunata and Rikuzen Takada)--all terribly devastated. Food, clothing, heaters/cookers and kerosene, medical assistance,--immediate relief. Later will come recovery/rehabilitation.

The office works without being consumed by the various news/misnews of the nuclear reactors and potential radiation."

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Lack of gas for evacuations

Masashi has provided another update regarding the activities in Iitate. The village has begun to close its refugee sites to relocate people to safer areas. One of the major destinations is Kanuma-city, Tochigi prefecture (Awano is part of Kunama-city). However, the people in Iitate still face a big problem: lack of gas for transportation!! Mayor Kan'no has sent out an emergency message asking for help to improve this situation.

A small part of Iitate is currently designated as an area where residents should stay inside their house or office. However, officials need to go out to distribute drinking water to many community meeting halls because radioactive materials are still found in tap water. It is really a contradiction, but there is no other way. Drinking water is distributed by self-defense army officials.

Iitate village is now providing services to residents who wish to check their degree of radiation exposure. The testing service is carried out on the school bus where the equipment is loaded. The bus circulates around the village.

Masachi also attached two pictures of his office at Ibaraki University. It is located on the 7th floor where offices received the most extensive damage.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Radioactivity concerns in Iitate village

I received an update from Masashi this evening that the Japanese Newspaper (March 21) said high levels of radioactive material were found in tap water in Iitate village. It is 965 Bq (becquerel) per kg (caused by radioactive iodine). As a result, the government asked residents not to use tap water for drinking.
Low level radioactive materials (iodine and caesium) are also found in some other prefectures, such as Ibaraki, Saitama, Chiba, Kanagawa, Niigata.

Radioactive materials are also found in spinach and raw milk produced in some areas in Fukushima, Ibaraki, and Tochigi prefectures. All these items have been ordered off the market.

It has now become a farming problem in this region: how to manage this risk and at the same time to avoid imagined rumours. Currently the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Agriculture are watching to ensure that contaminated products which exceed 300 Bq/kg for milk and water, and 2000 Bq/kg for vegetables are not circulated on the market.

Iitate partially included in evacuation zone

Masashi sent the following update regarding the situation in Japan.

"I have passed on your kindest offer to provide temporary housing space in Canada to one official working for Iitate. I am not sure if he is cognizant about our activities of the C-J project, but anyway I have transferred your generous message.

By the way, as of the nuclear power plant, the Japanese government ordered evacuation from the area within a 20 km radius from the plant in Fukushima, and for residents between 20-30km, to stay within their houses or offices.

Part of Iitate is locating within this 20-30km zone away from the power plant.
So the Iitate people are now very concerned about this situation.

According to Nobuhiro's information, residents living in this area have moved to Kanuma-city, Tochigi-prefecture. It is really a sort of coincident that these Iitate people moved to Kanuma-city which is an amalgamated city including Awano- town.

Thanks to fire-fighters' effort to pour water into the power plant and fix up the electric system in the plant, we can observe some symptoms of improvements. However, it is still unpredictable what it would take to solve the problems.

The toll of dead and missing is still increasing and has reached more than 20,000 today. This is the worst record of disaster after the WWII.

However, it is said that, almost 1140 years ago (869 A.D.), the same area was hit by almost same size of tsunami and earthquake. History repeats, but people easily forget because it is such a long time!"

I have also heard from Mao, one of our NRE alumni, who is currently in her homeland of Japan. She is working for Peace Winds, an humanitarian and disaster relief organization, that is providing services to those affected by the Japanese events. You can find out about Peace Winds via Mao informed me that her organization has asked Peace Winds America to raise foreign funding so that people can receive tax deductions. Unfortunately, they are not registered here in Canada, but if you wish to donate to them you can do so through Peace Winds America via the link above. For those of you who wish to receive Canadian tax deductions, you can donate via one of the Canadian agencies providing support. I know that the Canadian Red Cross and OxfamCanada are among these groups.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Welcome to the CRRF-Japan blog

This blog was established to support the network of Japanese and Canadian colleagues and friends we have made as a result of the CJ and NRE Projects. We will use it to provide news of the events unfolding in Japan, support those whose lives have been upset by the events, and respond to those who are concerned about their welfare. Please use the site to pass on news and concerns as they arise.

The CJ Project was established by the Canadian Rural Revitalization Foundation ( and the Organization for Urban Rural Interchange Revitalization in Japan. The NRE Project ( was a CRRF and SSHRC-supported, 11-year project that built on the relationships established under the CJ Project. As a result of these initiatives we have held numerous exchanges - not only among research personnel but with local rural people as well. Our specific focus has been on the Japanese communities of Iitate-mura and Awano-machi - as well as the 22 Canadian sites in the NRE Rural Observatory.

Of particular concern is the town of Iitate-mura since it is situated in Fukushima prefecture - close to the epicentre of the quake and about 30 to 60 km from the crippled nuclear power plant.

Our Japanese colleagues report that Iitate-mura sustained only minor damage from the quake and none from the tsunami since it is located about 25km west of the Ocean and it is about 400-800m above sea level. Only one injury was reported and this was not serious.

Awano-machi is in the Tochigi Prefecture which is more than 200km from the epi-centre. They only experienced the tremors - with no significant damage.

The concern about the power station remains since it is still not under control.

If you have questions, concerns, or suggestions, feel free to add to this blog - or contact me directly.

Bill Reimer