Tuesday, March 29, 2011

What's the difference between Tokyo and Bahrain?

The answer is...one of them is in a state of martial law with rioting on the streets which is described by the US State Department as having "experienced a breakdown in law and order", and the other has such a severe natto shortage that British citizens are advised to "consider leaving the area".

Compare the current FCO advice for Bahrain and Japan. People are advised to avoid all but essential travel to both of them, but residents are only advised to leave (oops, "consider leaving") one of them. Having acknowledged that there is no significant health risk from Fukushima (for the Tokyo area, remember) and even sneering at the French for their advice to leave which is "not based on science" the FCO still argue that the "potential disruptions" justify this warning, even though life here has now been basically back to normal for some time.

Incidentally, the natto shortage was explained to us today at work. Apparently there's some rumour that it protects against radiation. I'm not sure if that requires it to be eaten, or smeared on the body like sunscreen. I remember a similar run on natto a few years ago when it was supposed to help with dieting. Truly, a magic food.

Talking of magic food, I'm looking forward to a week in Vienna at the EGU meeting next week. We even have an extra day courtesy of Austrian Air who have redirected all their flights via Beijing to avoid the radiation "risk" of Japan and also shifted our flight day. If the "chew well before swallowing" Beijing air is really healthier than that at Narita, I'll eat my schnitzel. Well, I'll eat it anyway. I'm not complaining too much, the flight is annoying longer than it needs to be but we just got the last two tickets for the Philharmonic on Sunday morning.


Anonymous said...

Of course we had the run on Bananas too - due to their amazing ability to help people lose weight.

On the subject of Natto, my wife hasn't heard of any magical radiation-resistance properties associated with it - maybe the rarity is because we produce a lot of it up here in Tohoku?

I have heard Chinese residents were stocking up on well-known magic condiment 'salt' during the first few days of the disaster.

Anonymous said...

The shortage of natto now is due to problem with packaging caused by earthquake... not some bizzare notion dreamed up by foreign press.

James Annan said...

The natto explanation was given to us by a Japanese person...

Kooiti Masuda said...

Natto (a kind of fermented soybean) is is mainly produced in Ibaraki Prefecture (NE of Tokyo), where the earthquake was more severe than Tokyo though less than Miyagi and Iwate. The production has not fully come back. Various industries in Japan which have been adapted to very high availability of electricity are distupted by even a few hours of blackout.

Also, shortage of milk in Tokyo area is not mainly due to ban of production in the areas where radioactivity is detected. It is likely to be difficulty in keeping it refrigereted all the way to the consumers. So I think that (sporadic) blackout of electricity is the limiting factor. But, I also heard (though I do not remember the source) that sometimes shortage of packaging materials is a limiting factor.

This is an issue of "supply chain", the real field of expertise of Dr Oehmen.