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What's buzzing in Japan

Japan, July 12, 2011

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  • What's buzzing in Japan

I added a new word in my Japanese vocabulary today: hae, which is the word for that common insect, the fly. In the tsunami-affected area of Japan, flies are now everywhere.

It seems that conditions in the area of devastation are just perfect for them to breed, and they have appeared in great numbers. At a recent stop at the Chamber of Commerce, a group that Mercy Corps is supporting, everyone was walking out with a fly-swatter to take home with them to attack the problem. At the shelters I visited last week, screens for the windows and doors were being installed as they could to try to keep the pests to a minimum.

This disaster started in the cold and sometimes snowy month of March. Now people must contend with the hot and humid weather that is typical of Japan this time of year. Paper fans seem to be very popular just about everywhere. In a recent shelter visit, we were told that they had the offer of more electric fans and air conditioners, but the electrical system in that location couldn’t accommodate any additional demands.

There are other ways to beat the heat though. On Saturday, I was at a park with the art caravan staff, who had set up art supplies and games. The children figured out how to keep cool. After doing quiet activities in the shade for a while, such as painting or playing with various toys, they discovered water bottles and sprayers. Before long there was a rousing water fight, with the children tearing through the park, squirting each other but enjoying soaking the adults the most.

Just outside the evacuation center, someone had set up a free shaved ice stand. There is nothing like a pile of ice with a little sugar on top to make you think you are cool. The Japanese Self Defense forces, who live in dark-green tents, started hosing off the outside of the tents just to cool them down. For our partner Peace Winds' staff, a stop at the local convenience store on the way home from a day’s work offered the opportunity to buy a cold drink and a popsicle or ice cream bar.

In a few more months, we will be back to worrying about the arrival of cold weather again, and talking about heaters and warm clothing. But for now, it is undoubtedly summertime in Japan.