Image Source: Facebook.
As a nuclear crisis hangs in the balance in Japan, symbolism and mythology surrounding the environmental threat gain significance. The slip into an atmosphere of uncertainty begins with strange gekokujō (下剋上) moments, with challenges to conventional, contemporary officials and moral appeals to traditional authority. An illustration comes from the Emperor of Japan's annual spring garden party in the Akasaka Imperial Garden in Tokyo. At the party, the Emperor politely asked Governor Murai of Miyagi Prefecture what workers were doing, exactly, with radioactive debris. Were they disposing of it carefully?
Hard to say. In Minamisōma, Fukushima Prefecture, in February and March 2012, there was talk of mysterious black dust everywhere, which had never before been seen. On 27 April 2012, it was officially confirmed that the dust contained plutonium 238, 239, 240, 241 and strontium 89 and 90. It also has huge levels of radioactive cesium 134 and 137. One concerned city official remarks that all the black dust has "blown away." You can see his video of local dust storms, here, and his blog here.
Then there is this little piece, about Kindergarten children who were engaged to wipe down low level hot spots, namely mailboxes, in Ryozen-machi district of Date City in Fukushima Prefecture, 50 kilometres (31 miles) from the ruined Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant. Radiation rates are about 1 to 3 microsieverts per hour, with higher doses here and there, which occasioned previous recommendations that the city's children stay inside.
For reference, in May 2011, the Japanese legal radiation level under which under-18s were allowed to work outside was 0.6 microsieverts per hour. You can see a discussion about safe levels of radiation in Japan, including the comments section which has many links, here. On the other hand, a comment from the American Association of Physicians and Surgeons provides an opposing view, and dismisses the dangers of low dose radiation, here. The polishing of mailboxes was done on 20 April 2012 to commemorate Japan's postal service.