I woke up to the sound of pouring rain this morning. It was only 8am, yet I felt late. After stumbling downstairs and pushing a rice triangle and bread roll into my mouth, I picked up a copy of the daily Fukushima Minpo. It was a tough read.
The front page updates casualty and refugee figures from the March 11th tsunami and ongoing nuclear crisis. Inside are maps of the 20km exclusion zones along the coast, and a whole page of tables giving the previous day`s radiation readings across the prefecture.
The radiation tables record the levels in microsieverts per hour. Migroseebelts is a long word, difficult to spell and remember, so I have converted the figures. 0.01 has the potency of one toxic horde of flying crabs.
Yesterday in Aizu, a maximum of 15 crab hordes were spotted in the air. In comparison, Koriyama, in the central nakadori strip, had a peak of 107 hordes. At the atomic centre on the hamadori coast, 715 hordes hovered. Tokyo has around 10, and on non-riot days, London has about 8.
With great reluctance, I started the day with a visit to Aizu`s tourist information this morning. I don`t like asking for help and I don`t like talking to strangers. I wanted to be out of there in seconds. Instead, it was twenty minutes before I emerged into the now bright sunshine, I had 11 pamphlets in my hand, and I`d completely forgotten why I went there in the first place.
“Get on the bus, it leaves now”, the tourist information lady had told me.
The tourist bus was tiny; in fact, it was more like a van. All the seats were full, and the roof was too low for standing; it was stooping only.
Dutifully, I got off where the lady had told me, Nanaokamachi Shirokiya. Then, I was lost for what to do. Stood on a narrow street with heavy traffic, the low-rise architecture was striking.
Modern steel framed buildings were next to old wooden structures and earthen-walled storehouses. Some looked ugly, some nice. Some sold junk, some sold class. One sold battered sweet bean paste. I went inside.
Tenpura manju is a crispy sweet treat, a battered Mars bar with a bit more class. It`s ideal for elevenses.
A local labourer was sat at the counter sporting a cropped grey fringe and black mullet. He was so impressed with my order, he asked for 3 manju himself. I had a ramune (lemonade) with mine, while he followed his morning beer with a whiskey soda.
“What`s the name of this cafe?”, I asked the owner. He brought out a leaflet. “Stop!”, I wanted to scream, “Just give me an answer! Don`t waste leaflets on me; they don`t grow on trees”.
I am a coward though, and didn`t say that. Instead, I thanked him kindly, and added the leaflet to my collection. (Yamadera is the name of the cafe; it just took me 5 minutes to find that out for you. I hope you are grateful)
The Yamadera owner told me Aizu`s mokuzo (wooden) and tekkotsu (steel) framed buildings coped well with the earthquake, but many of the dozou (earthen walled) structures are badly damaged. Most repair work has only just begun in Aizu; building companies have been inundated with work in the tsunami zone.