Into the Forbidden Zone: A Trip Through Hell and High Water in Post-Earthquake Japan
William T. Vollmann
Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub
Just weeks after multiple disasters struck Japan, National Book Award winner William T. Vollmann ventures into the nuclear hot zone, outfitted only with rubber kitchen gloves, a cloth facemask, and a capricious radiation detector. In this Byliner Original from the digital publisher Byliner, Vollmann emerges with a haunting report on daily life in a now-ravaged Japan—a country he has known and loved for many years. And in the cities and towns hit hardest by the earthquake, tsunami, and radioactive contamination, Vollmann finds troubling omens of a future heading toward us all.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
William T. Vollman is the author of nine novels, including "Europe Central," winner of the National Book Award. He has also written three collections of stories, a memoir, and five works of nonfiction, including, most recently, "Imperial" and "Kissing the Mask: Beauty, Understatement, and Femininity in Japanese Noh Theater." His epic treatise on violence, "Rising Up and Rising Down," was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. He is the recipient of the Whiting Writers Award, the PEN Center USA West Award, and the Strauss Living Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters.
teahouses: slow, quiet, and (to me) melancholy notes reassembling some blurred ghost face out of the melodies of olden times. I hope never to forget how it was for me in that small chamber in Gion when the lovely old geisha Kofumi-san danced the “Black Hair Song,” to which Kawabata and Tanizaki allude in their greatest novels. 23 It pleased me that Mrs. Utsumi also knew and indeed had mastered this tune, whose simple mention made her faintly smile. For a fluttering instant the two of us lived
since 365 days of 0.1 millirems would give only 36.5 millirems. Doubtless our author threw in a few chest X-rays, airplane rides, and slumber parties in stone castles full of radon gas. A reading above 0.1 millirems per hour, I learned, is worrisome. 4 Worried I was not, since my readings in San Francisco and Sacramento were on the order of 0.1 millirems per day. The radiation incident guide advised me that if I were a “responder” of the best official type I ought to limit my dose at any one
dosimeter against it. And given my experience with my neighbor’s orange plate, I had reason to believe that my dosimeter might be insensitive to, or inaccurate in, low ranges. But at least it was doing something. My homework might not be well done, but I hoped to earn an A for diligent intentions. Dr. Pouilot considered my five-rem ceiling dose a trifle dangerous. When I showed him the page in my incident guide where the EPA recommended it, that tolerant man said that after all, they ought to
mentioned below. A different (one-time) statistic gave Iitate’s dose as 9.13 microsieverts per hour, which works out to 21.9 millirems per day, so that the five rems would be reached in 228 days. See The Japan Times, March 27, 2011, 2 (map: “Maximum radiation levels in eastern Japan: Data from 5 p.m. Friday to 5 p.m. Saturday”). 37 Per hour. This would be about 1.4 millirems per day, or about four times what my dosimeter was reporting for Koriyama. At this rate, a resident of Kawauchi would have
Thanks to her, I grew acquainted with the phone number of Carol (on subsequent dialings I got Ginger), who connected me with a salesman named Bob, who allowed that he did still have one Geiger counter in stock—or, more precisely, a post–Geiger-Müller sort of gadget which, said Bob (who had not actually inspected it but seemed to be interpolating from some data screen), resembled an electronic calculator. Current and cumulative exposure, X-ray and gamma, a programmable exposure alarm—oh,