Famous mountains fall victim to the taint of the Fukushima reactor accidents
In those days, on the way back to Tokyo, we'd pull off the Kan-etsu Expressway at the Tanigawa Parking Area, just after the long tunnel. Then we'd slew the weatherbeaten Subaru to a halt next to the public fountain, and fill every water bottle we had.
We might think twice about doing that now. The big city's tap water probably hasn't improved, but it may contain less radioactive caesium than do the mountain streams. That, at least, is my guess after looking at the "heat maps" of radioactive contamination recently published by Japan's science and technology ministry.
These charts show that the mountain ranges around the Kanto plain have generally soaked up more radioactivity - specifically the caesium 134 and 137 isotopes - than the low ground. Rain falls more heavily in the hills, washing out more of the plume that emanated from the derelict Fukushima reactors.
Quite a few "famous peaks of Japan" stand within the scope of the ministry's survey. What would Fukada Kyūya have made of this modern-day threat to his mountains?
There's no way of knowing, of course, as the Hyakumeizan author died (on a mountain hike) on March 21, 1971. This was just five days before the Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Power Plant officially went into service. It's as if one era ended and another began in that far-off month forty years ago.
Many thanks to Wes for pointing out the relevant post in Michael Cucek's estimable current affairs blog, Shisaku. An article on the science ministry's survey can also be found in the Japan Times, which is also the source of the map shown here.
Advice for hikers:-
Interview in Yama to Keikoku magazine with Professor Katsumi Shozugawa on Wes Lang's Hiking in Japan website.
Japan Times articles:-
Okutama cesium level seen spiking
Effect of contaminated soil on food chain sparks fears
Hot spots and blind spots
New York Times article:-
Radioactive hotspots in Tokyo point to wider problems