Saturday, March 24, 2012

Anecdotal Evidence that Government and JA Pushed Tohoku/Kanto Vegetables to Western Japan Last Year

As the title says, it is purely anecdotal, nothing systematically gathered and statistically analyzed. It's from the readers of my Japanese blog and twitter followers in Japan who wrote to me after reading the Asahi AJW article (I translated it into Japanese) that back in 2005 IAEA had proposed the 300-kilometer radius for contaminated food regulation but the Japanese government objected.

(By the way, the Asahi article appeared in Japan on March 15, 2012 in Japanese, I was told by a reader, but only in the printed version of the paper. So unless you're an Asahi subscriber you would never know about it.)

About the vegetable lineups in supermarkets in the Kansai region (western half of Japan) about the same time last year:


We relocated to Kansai last year because of our small baby. Vegetables grown in northern Kanto [Tochigi, Ibaraki, Gunma] were on prominent display at a local supermarket last year. The same season this year, all I see is vegetables grown in Kyushu and Shikoku. What was that lineup last year?


I live in Kansai. Last year, it was all vegetables grown in Kanto, which I had never seen before. I could hardly find locally grown vegetables.


I sent my small child to my parents' house in Osaka. My mother understood the radiation danger and she paid close attention to food. She was very angry, saying "Why are they selling these vegetables from the dangerous [contaminated] areas?"


I live in Osaka. Same time last year, the vegetables I saw at the supermarket were all from the high-radiation areas, like cucumbers from Date City, Fukushima. I had never seen any vegetable from Fukushima before.

About the same time last year (late March) and onward, there were people in Kansai (Osaka, Hyogo, Kyoto, etc.) reporting that the vegetables at their local supermarkets were all of Kanto origin that they had never even seen before. They were roundly ridiculed, and were accused of fear-mongering, making up stories, or worse, discriminating against Fukushima people. They were called "racists" in a country which is pretty much homogeneous.

One year later, the vegetable lineups seem to have gone back to pre-Fukushima normal, i.e. vegetables from western Japan sold in western Japan.

Remember all that beef contaminated with radioactive cesium last year? Here's one of the earliest posts on the topic from last year. The Japanese government started encouraging and facilitating the sale or transfer of cattle out of Fukushima before the planned evacuation zone was set in late April, and beef of Fukushima origin was sold in great quantities in locations which had never seen such a surge in sale of Fukushima beef.

Remember also the radioactive crushed stones from a stone pit in Namie-machi, right outside the no-entry zone (20-kilometer radius) and inside the planned evacuation zone? The stone pit operator was able to sell (literally) tons of stones far and wide (some were sold and used in Tokyo) before the planned evacuation zone was set in late April.

The Japanese government has successfully disseminated contaminated vegetables, beef, crushed stones, and a host of everything else (firewood, used cars, leaf compost, sawdust for shiitake growing, etc.) out of Fukushima and the contaminated areas in northern Kanto. Its success is partly attributable to people who attacked people like these mothers (and fathers) as "fear-mongering", "irrational", "nuclear-crazy" "racists".

Right now, a different set of people are called "racists", because they oppose accepting the disaster debris from Miyagi and Iwate and burn it in their towns. the Japanese government looks set to score yet another success. Letting the citizens squabble with each other with "racist" name-calling, while the government promising endless money to those in the local governments and waste disposal industry.

People like Ms. Cyndi Lauper and Mr. Paul Blustein provide a good old "external" (international) pressure (or "gaiatsu" in Japanese) for the government to tell the citizens, "See, international celebrities and scholars are saying what we've been telling you."


Anonymous said...

Japan is getting more and more lost

Anonymous said...

Whenever I heard the worst of the Japanese Government and the officers (from the top to the very local level), they manage to surprise me.

Atomfritz said...

Does the word "racist" still have any meaning in Japanese?
Is there still any difference between mothers caring of clean food for their children and anglosaxons who derogatory call the Japanese "japs"?

If I'll ever be called a racist when I say "No Nukes please!" then I'll be proud of that.

Scott said...

I am incredibly surprised people are going around claiming that others who don't buy things from northern prefectures are "racist". It’s probably the easiest and fastest way to dismiss any person who tries to go against the government's decision that things sold in the market from the north are completely safe.

It’s sickening some people have to stoop so low as to pull out the racist card to dismiss any rational discussion on the topic of contamination. Racism has nothing to do with concerns about radiation contamination in food. I think discrimination would be a better word. People like me who try not to buy things from the northern prefectures don't carry any malice or discriminatory feelings towards the people of Tohoku; this has more to do with the government’s inaction to protect its own citizens. If things were actually tested and areas with suspected high radiation not farmed, I am sure I wouldn't be so concerned with product origins.

I noticed more stuff from Fukushima and Ibraraki over the past year as well. It's become more of a chore to go grocery shopping because I can't get everything I need from one store anymore. I have to go to 2-3 different stores for all my ingredients now.

Why did the government raise the safety levels of food and other goods right after the disaster? Why did it take the government one year to tighten restrictions on radioactive levels just over one year since 3/11? Will the stricter levels starting in April 4th even change anything? Time will tell. I guess I'll just keep on reading labels and ex-skf.

Wm. Marcus said...

Scott: order from S-COOP or Shizenha if you are in Osaka; they triple check for radiation content and they deliver the food to your door. There are safe(r) alternatives for food shopping in Japan: COOPs. But not all COOPs are the same, as they are not syndicated -- find one whose safety standards run parallel to your own.

Scott said...

Thanks Marcus. My wife and I have been considering doing something like that. For now its not too hard to find what we want. It just takes more time driving between supermarkets. But with the recent cost of gas going up once again (nowhere as high as it was back in 2008 at least not yet), driving is becoming less and less an option for groceries.

Anonymous said...

I was wondering why all of a sudden the supermarkets stopped having a majority of Kanto/Tohoku vegetables here in Kyoto. Because the vegetables all look similar, I was worried that they were just changing the labels like some companies did with Chinese unagi a year or two ago.

Anonymous said...

I'm in Kansai but always shop at the cheapo grocery stores, I thought that's why I saw so much produce from Tohoku, because it was being sold to the low-income Japanese (and gaijin). Maybe not.

Anonymous said...

Japan is known worldwide for being a country of the bizarre, but to read about how people buy this s**t of "supporting" people of the affected areas by eating contaminated food...

It's like: "ok, I'm gonna lend a hand to these guys by killing myself in the long run, poisoning my body with the most toxic chemicals ever known to man"

It doesn't make sense at all. AT ALL!

But they make it even worse by acusing the people that still have some common sense left of being "racist".

Oh Japan, why do you do that?

Anonymous said...

Yeah, I was in Kyoto at that time and buying food had become my only job as it was taking away a lot of time in order to find local or southern products. I will never understand the logic behind it. I was hearing people in Fukushima were provided with products from south or western japan, they avoided local products...then in Kyoto I was seeing shops full of vegetables from Fukushima or Ibaraki. A Japanese friend in Ibaraki was buying only through internet from south as he knew Ibaraki products were not safe...then why were they selling them to us? WHY THAT MASS KILLING BEHAVIOUR...Just to save some coins?! Ahahah I will never believe that, come on!

Atomfritz said...

Thank you Japanese friends for telling about your experiences at the groceries/supermarkets!
Really looks like they try to distribute the radioactive food evenly over Japan, so that there probably won't be so many outstanding "cancer hotspots" in Fukushima (good for statistics)

Anonymous said...

So everything happening in Japan is the Government policy. Really?

It's just simple economics. Vegetables from Kanto are cheaper because they aren't sold well in Kanto. My friends in Kansai aren't that fearful of radioactives as people from Kanto are, so they don't care much where the vegetables are coming from.

Anonymous said...

If Tohoku JAs dump their vegetables with the government encouragement that drive down the market price for vegetables in Kansai, it's simple economics? Besides, there is no report that they were any cheaper than Kansai produce. But there were many reports that the distributors got a very fat margin. Simple economics...

Encourage your friends to eat their fill, but don't force others to do the same.

Post a Comment