TT-658 -- One Year On, Radiation Update. Ebiz news from Japan.

* * * * * * * * * T E R R I E 'S T A K E * * * * * * *
A weekly roundup of news & information from Terrie Lloyd.

General Edition Sunday, April 15, 2012, Issue No. 658


- What's New -- One Year On, Radiation Update
- News -- Hague convention may not get signed
- Upcoming Events
- Corrections/Feedback
- Travel Destinations Picks -- Aomori and Kyoto
- News Credits

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Over the last few weeks there has been a show down going on
between local and town authorities around the country and
the central government, over the restarting of the nation's
53 nuclear reactors. It has been "tradition" that a reactor
taken off-line for maintenance should require the utility
operator to receive local civic approval before being put
back in service. Traditionally and prior to the Tohoku
earthquake, getting local government authority was a
non-issue with the noticeable exception of the world's
largest reactor (in terms of generation capability) at
Kashiwazaki-Kariwa, run by TEPCO. In that case, it came to
light that there were cover-ups, and the local communities
were not happy.

However, since the Tohoku earthquake everything has
changed, and local communities all over the country have
come to realize that they could potentially have a
Fukushima-type disaster on their own back door. No longer
is the lure of jobs and easy cash a blinder for the obvious
-- that in an earthquake-prone country like Japan, nuclear
is always going to be risky.

This was never truer than for Kashiwazaki-Kariwa, where the
2007 Chuetsu earthquake revealed a fault line just 20km
away from the power plant, and where the accelerative
forces in the ground exceeded the plant's design criteria
and shut it down for 18 months. Kashiwazaki-Kariwa was
eventually brought back online in 2010, but after the
Fukushima disaster last year it was again closed, this time
indefinitely by order of the governor of Niigata.

The governor has made it clear that Niigata wants answers,
specifically what assurances there will be that Fukushima
won't be repeated at Kashiwazaki-Kariwa, an area that has
had two major quakes in the last 8 years. It's becoming
pretty clear that there can be no such assurances, and that
the government will have to ram through any reactor
restarts around the country or else start preparing for a
very difficult summer of power cuts. The mayor of Osaka,
Toru Hashimoto, is making hay out of this situation with
his new anti-nuclear, Osaka-focused political party.

[Continued below...]

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[...Article continues]

All this political action about nuclear power plants is not
lost on the regular man in the street, and while everyone
would prefer to have air conditioning and regular working
hours this August and September, we rather suspect that at
least for this year and probably next, people would be
willing to do without these luxuries if it means staying

There are not a few people asking why the government
doesn't go all out to build alternative energy projects, as
a sign of leadership. Even if they did restart some
reactors, they could point to the new projects as an
alternative future and ask the populace to be patient while
these were being built. Instead, the two solar mega-projects
announced so far, one in Hokkaido and one in Kyushu, are by
private companies, with little sign of government

The only conclusion that the public can come to is that the
politicians and bureaucracy are so wedded to nuclear that
they have no intention of creating alternatives. We don't
understand why the DPJ leadership start engaging in some
big-picture thinking, and try to win back the trust of the
populace. They should take a leaf from Toru Hashimoto's
book, invoke memories of the old LDP and set a direction
that says they care about people and not just vested
interests. Perception is everything.

When it comes to nuclear and distrust, there is probably no
group with greater concerns than the parents of young
families, and what they are most concerned about is the
low-dose exposure of their kids to radiation, both directly
and through food and water. We covered radiation in food in
some detail back in TT-620 "Is Our Food Radiation Safe?"
and again in TT-622 "Where to Find Safe Food".

Since we wrote those columns back in July 2011, there have
been various scares in the press, mainly over Fukushima
rice showing up in school lunches around the country and
water safety, but basically no one has been able to point
to any particular immediate poisoning of the population --
despite a lot more radiation detection equipment in the
hands of the public. So in the absence of major bad news,
this is a good thing.

But the problem with kids and radiation is that most of the
government-mandated measures are set for a hypothetical
fully-grown male. It has been well established by research
that pre-teens and particularly unborn fetuses and kids
under the age of 7-9 years are much more sensitive to
low-dose radiation than are adults. A 1983 paper in the
Pediatrics Journal, called "Special Susceptibility of
Children to Radiation", found from studies of Japanese kids
after the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombs that there were
notable increases in disease and fatalities for people
later in life after exposure as unborn and pre-teens. In
particular leukemia, breast cancer in females, and thyroid
cancer, were all noticeably higher. Birth defects such as
small head size and spontaneous abortions were also

In the absence of a forthright government policy of testing
and assistance for young families, many in Fukushima-ken
have voted with their feet, while those in Tokyo are voting
with their pocketbooks (and their feet: we know of a number
of families who have left Tokyo because of radiation
concerns). No one is broadcasting the number of people who
have evacuated Fukushima-ken (we're not including the
80,000 who were forced to evacuate from the exclusion zone
by the government), but speculation is somewhere between
60,000 and 100,000 people. So totally, about 7%-8% of the
prefecture's entire population has left, at least

Most young families still in Tokyo (and we presume those
in Fukushima) are taking their own precautions, even a year
later. People are still avoiding produce from Fukushima,
not drinking milk that doesn't come from Hokkaido or
southwest Japan, and are ordering rice, water, and soy
products from Kyushu. Many store chains and vegetable
suppliers have taken to doing internal radiation checks on
produce, and the government recently passed very strict
new radiation-in-food limits.

Our take is that the food supply to those of us in Tokyo is
relatively safe, and by taking some simple precautions over
meat (eat imported), milk (drink Hokkaido-sourced), and
rice (order from Kyushu) in 2012, your family can otherwise
eat normally. One persistent worry we have had has been
about fish and their contamination from leaking cesium and
other radionuclides from the Fukushima Daiichi power plant.
It was therefore with some relief that we read a report
from researchers of the respected Woods Hole Oceanographic
Institute, an entity well outside the reach of influence by
the Japanese bureaucracy, which gives fish from a zone of
600km to 30km around Fukushima a relatively clean bill of

What they found after taking dozens of samples of plankton
and small fish is that certainly radiation levels are
elevated (in some locations up to 1,000 times) compared to
tests done before the accident, but that these levels were
still only 1/6 that of naturally occurring radionuclides
such as Potassium-40. They found that any samples
containing cesium-134 and -137 were well below levels
considered safe for human consumption.

What they did find, however, is that the level of
cesium-134 appears to still be high and is being refreshed,
indicating that the ground water around the Fukushima
Daiichi plant is leaking the isotope. This might correlate
with fears that there has been a melt-through in Reactor 2
and that the ground water is being actively contaminated.
If this is the case, it will cause long-term problems for
water drawn from Fukushima wells and probably for food
grown in the area. For this reason, we think it's prudent
to continue avoiding long-term consumption of products from
the area.

Find the report here:

Despite our concerns over long-term low-dosage radiation
and its possible effect on children, we don't see anything
scary enough to put off travel to the area. What radiation
is still on the surface of areas outside the restricted
zone appears to be so low that you would need to be in the
area for an extensive period, even children. If you want to
see ongoing updates on radiation in the area, then you
should follow the postings of


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+++ NEWS

- Tokyo office real estate market in trouble
- DV complaints up 7% over 2010
- 2 years jail for illegal downloads
- Hague Convention may not get signed
- Online travel firm Ikyu doing well

-> Tokyo office real estate market in trouble

The Nikkei has a good report on the oversupply of office
space in Tokyo this year, with the expectation that
1.81m sq. m. of new office buildings will come on the
market, the highest level for 30 years. In the report, the
Nikkei reckons that developers hit by the Lehman Shock are
having to continue putting up new buildings so as retain
tenants in the face of falling rental income. It further says
that unlike 2003 when a similar situation developed, there
is no confidence in a market recovery any time soon. We'd
agree with that sentiment, especially since the nation is
looking at massive tax increases and more political turmoil
in the next two years. (Source: TT commentary from, Apr 12, 2012)

-> DV complaints up 7% over 2010

The National Police Agency has said that it received 33,745
complaints, 6.9% more than last year, domestic violence
complaints in 2011. This is a national high and is
indicative of increasing awareness by the population that
DV doesn't have to be tolerated. Child abuse complaints
also reached a record high, of 3,694 incidents. Separately,
stalking cases were down slightly to 18,524 complaints, and
harassment by phone calls or in person came in at 201,106
complaints. (Source: TT commentary from, Apr
12, 2012)

-> 2 years jail for illegal downloads

The Chunichi Shimbun has reported that the government is
likely to pass legislation that makes downloading pirated
software and content illegal, and which will likely carry
penalties of two years in prison or a JPY2m fine. Japan
already has laws on pirate uploads, so this provides the
other side of the coin. ***Ed: While pirating software and
content isn't right, we think two years in prison is
draconian. Driving without a licence, which is roughly
equivalent to downloading without a licence in our opinion,
carries a 1-year prison sentence...** (Source: TT
commentary from, Apr 13, 2012)

-> Hague Convention may not get signed

Although the Hague Convention on international child
abduction is just a starting point (the Japanese family law
also needs to be changed), nonetheless left-behind-parents
caught up in Japan's kidnapping legal loopholes were hoping
that the government's commitment to sign this year would be
the first step to bringing the nation in line with other
countries. But it's not to be. It appears that the
legislation has been submitted too late for it to be heard
in the Diet this year, and therefore will be pushed back to
next year -- which is an election year... ***Ed: What's the
guess that this signing will get buried for another couple
of years? The problem for everyone isn't the signing of the
Convention, it's the follow-up law changes, which go to the
very heart of Japan's family court values -- i.e., having
the concept of children as "belongings" to one house rather
than giving them equal access to both parents. Japanese
judges strongly believe in "emotional cauterization" in a
marriage breakup and no amount of psychological studies
will convince them otherwise. Basically we're not talking
science but religion when this subject comes up.** (Source:
TT commentary from, Apr 13, 2012)

-> Online travel firm Ikyu doing well

Despite fierce competition from Recruit's JALAN and Rakuten
Travel, online travel booking site Ikyu says that it will
book a pre-tax profit of JPY1.3bn, JPY250m more than last
year, for FY2011. The company credits the extra income to
robust sales as the domestic travel market recovers, as
well as a 2% increase in commissions charged to hotels, to
10%. Overall sales were JPY4.2bn. ***Ed: At 10% they are on
a par with and some other major foreign sites
-- thank the foreigners for setting the benchmark.**
(Source: TT commentary from, Apr 12, 2012)

NOTE: Broken links
Many online news sources remove their articles after just a
few days of posting them, thus breaking our links -- we
apologize for the inconvenience.


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In this section we run comments and corrections submitted
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*** No feedback this week.


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=> Nebuta Matsuri, Aomori

The Nebuta Matsuri, held yearly August 2 to August 7, is an
old festival whose origins, not unlike most old festivals,
are murky. It appears to have at least two possible
antecedents: lantern offerings of the Tanabata Festival, or
a large lantern built for the Lantern Festival. The size of
that possible first "large" lantern? 360cm on each side -
quite a far cry from the current
9m-wide-by-7m-long-by-5m-high floats. Size isn't the only
thing that's changed, though. Candles have been replaced by
lightbulbs, while bamboo frames have been abandoned in
favour of wire. What's stayed the same is the paper used to
cover the wire - thousands of sheets of housho (mulberry
wood) paper, painted in brilliant colours.

=> Flowers and Mochi in Sannenzaka, Kyoto

Where would a Kansai girl go when she wants to experience
Kyoto? Eri, a Japanese student from Osaka, shares her
story from her time in Kyoto. Here are her words:

"My favorite route in Kyoto was to get off Kawaramachi
station of Hankyu train and walk to Kiyomizu temple. I
didn’t realize it took at least half an hour to reach the
temple. However, there were a lot of souvenir shops on
either side of the street so I didn’t feel it was a long
way and I could enjoy strolling."



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