It’s currently the rice harvesting season in Japan. Unlike many other Asian countries, there is only one rice season a year, as it gets too cold to have more. Countries like Vietnam can replant as soon as they harvest as it’s warm enough year-round.
Radioactive rice may enter the food chain later this year
According to NHK the government announced that for Tohoku-region farmers unable to grow rice last year many rice fields contaminated with radiation can plant rice this year. The government reports that 2% of rice harvested last year contained between 100-500 bequerels of radiation, whilst 0.2% had more than 500bq which is not fit for consumption. The decision was made because of concern for farmers’ livelihoods and maintenance of good quality rice fields. Criticisms included no measures for stringent oversight preventing contaminated rice of more than 500bq to slip into the national rice supplies; no means of disposal of contaminated rice; nor financial incentive for farmers and local officials to be honest. Further, it appears to be a commercial decision in sympathy with farmers, and with less regard for consumers.
Previously there were reports in 2010 of expired rice meant for industrial uses, including glue production, was bought from government stocks and commercially resold to pre-schools and schools for childrens’ lunches in the period between about 2005 and 2010.
More pictures of Japanese rice can be found at my gallery:
Radioactive food is becoming a real and hidden concern. The discussion of this is veiled and brief on NHK TV news, the national broadcaster. One might assume that NHK is avoiding promoting a food panic. Already prices for Hokkaido dairy products are increasing. Previously in this blog, radioactive mustard spinach, a very popular part of the Japanese menu, was discovered growing in Tokyo weeks after the 15th March explosion, and in mustard spinach imported to Singapore from Shizuoka (south of Tokyo). Now some people are concerned that rice being grown in the north may be mixed with uncontaminated rice grown in the south. According to NHK, already, rice stocks are low, as many people are stocking up ahead of the harvest season beginning now. A friend of mine went shopping in Nagoya city with a dosimeter (a radiation measuring device) and found that cucumbers in his supermarket had high levels of radiation. I wish I could get a dosimeter, they are so hard to get.
Rice and mustard spinach are pictured below.
Rice shortly before harvest
Japanese people are pretty much built from the ground up on rice. They might eat it three times a day. They drink it in the form of the alcohol sake at parties, and end of year parties; for ceremonies like weddings, funerals, and engagements.
The very origin of Shinto, and all of its symbols are related to humble rice. The very architecture of Shinto shrines, throughout Japan, is based upon early rice storage buildings in the pre-Shinto era a little more than two-thousand years ago. It is said that rice and sake play a central role in secret Shinto ceremonies that involve popular festivals, and even the emperor and his family. It’s perhaps not inaccurate to say that Japan, and the Japanese people, were built on rice.