Salt in Hammam, a Japanese style

Going to onsen, or hot spring spa, is a favorite pastime for Japanese. Overnighting at a posh ryokan, offering sumptuous meals and attractive views, is a luxury. Being a volcanic archipelago, however, Japan can provide hot spring anywhere, if deep enough holes are dug up. Thus, onsen have sprung up even in crowded cities like Tokyo, and have become readily accessible. Today we can stop at a spa on the way home after work. In the past, only deep hot bath was available, but it is not rare today to find jacuzzi, sauna and hammam, or steam bath, as well (See a photo of the hot spring spa in Tokyo I enjoy going).Spa in TokyoB

What I like the most at the onsen I frequent in Tokyo is hammam as I enjoyed it in Western Europe while I was based in Geneva. A big difference between the one here and those I experienced over there is a large vaseful of salt placed at the entrance. We scoop a handful of it and rub it all over the body while sitting and sweating there.

I thought salt was being used for the same purpose as in preparing shimesaba, or salted, vinegar-marinated mackerel, as a topping for sushi (see the photo from Salt rubbed around the fish would extract water from the flesh, making it firm. I thought it was a Japanese way to perspire more to turn flabby muscles into a firmShimesaba physique while in a steam bath.Greek Statue

What I was told later was that by scrubbing the body with salt, we let tiny grains of salt do a good job of even cleaning pores of the skin to help us better perspire. By all means, we won’t come out like a Greek statue only after 30 minutes in it. Whatever its effect may be, I prefer to sit in hammam with salt.

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The State of Nuclear Emergency Declared after the Fukushima Meltdown is Still On Today!!!

Most people in Japan do not realize that the state of nuclear emergency declared after the nuclear accident in Fukushima in March 2011 is still in place today, about eight years after the meltdown. In relation to this state of emergency, the following situations can be pointed out.

1.  Radioactive contaminated water still keeps accumulating: In 2013 at the IOC conference, PM Abe declared that the contaminated water in Fukushima was “under control”, which led to awarding of the 2020 Olympics to Tokyo. However, contaminated water keeps increasing, and there is hardly any more space at the plant premises to set up more tanks for storing contaminated water. The ALPS (the apparatus for removing radioactive materials from contaminated water) introduced from France cannot remove tritium and strontium. Currently, about 1 million tons of water containing tritium, despite having been treated by ALPS, remain in the tanks and keep increasing (Handbook on genpatsu-no-ima, by Citizens’ Nuclear Information Center, Jan. 2019). For this reason, the Japanese gov’t and TEPCO held a hearing at the end of August 2018 where they proposed the idea of diluting and discharging it into the ocean, but many experts and fishermen were dead against it (See the photo of tanks storing contaminated water at the Fukushima nuclear plant, from at fukushima

2.  High-level radiation from Fukushima plant is still being emitted daily: From Fukushima plant, high-level radiation is still being emitted daily. For example, daily average emission from July to September, 2018, was 5.26 million Becquerel of cesium (134 and 137 combined) and in Oct., it was 3.12 million Becquerel. On the other hand, the treated water discharged from the plant into the ocean up to Nov. 2018 contained as much as 119.86 billion Becquerel of tritium (from the blog of a SF novelist Satoshi Haruhashi:

3.  Unfairness of forcing Fukushima residents to live with radiation up to 20 mSv/year: fter the nuclear accident, the Japanese government raised the level of radiation exposure allowed from 1 to 20 mSv per year for Fukushima residents. Elsewhere in Japan, it is still 1 mSv per year, the standard set by International Commission on Radiological Protection (ICRP) (

4.  Termination of housing allowance for “voluntary” evacuees from Fukushima, a serious violation of human rights: Up until March 2017, housing allowance was provided to families evacuated from Fukushima. However, along with the new standard of 20 mSv/year arbitrarily set by the government, evacuation orders were retracted for an increasing number of municipalities, and housing aid to the evacuees from such communities have been terminated. Those who refuse to return to Fukushima are now considered as “voluntary” evacuees and are no longer entitled to housing allowance. By terminating aid, the government is forcing them to return to Fukushima, but the families with small children still fear the risk of radiation and refuse to go back, despite economic hardship (Info. from the “Evacuees’ Cooperative Center”).

5.  The number of children with thyroid cancer is increasing although the government refuses to recognize the accident as its cause: Since 2015, exams on children’s thyroid gland have been conducted in Fukushima. Out of about 370,000 children initially examined, 272 children have been diagnosed with thyroid cancer as of Dec. 2018 (source: OurPlanet-TV, Dec. 14, 2018). Normally, the incidence rate is only 1 or 2 per million people (source: “Network of citizens protecting children from radiation”), but the government insists that it is due to “screening effect” and that “there is no causal relationship with the accident”. The number of cases is expected to rise in the future.

6.  Recommendations from the UNHRC (UN Human Rights Council) to the Japanese government (UNHRC, Oct. 2018): The government is obliged (1) to prevent and minimize, as much as possible, children from being exposed to radiation; (2) to change back from the “20 mSv” to “1 mSv” per year standard before retracting evacuation orders, especially for children and women of childbearing age; (3) to not pressurize families to return to Fukushima by terminating housing allowance. (United Nations Human Rights Council, October 2018).

The extremely serious nuclear accident happened while the Japanese government pursued nuclear program as a national policy. I wonder for how long the state of nuclear emergency will continue. I wonder how the government and TEPCO who were responsible for the accident will resolve the difficult situation we are in. I wonder if we will ever find a solution satisfactory to a large number of the victims.

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