I never told you about my quest while I was in the States.
Just before I left for the States the kindergarten principal where I work asked me if I could buy her a Geiger counter. A what?! She explained that because of the radiation threat from the Fukushima nuclear plant, the schools and kindergartens in northern Japan are supposed to have their playgrounds tested regularly for any windblown radiation. Right now there is one small hand-held instrument that is being passed weekly around the city's kindergartens and I guess there are officials that supposedly come at regular intervals to do official testing. The principal really wanted a kindergarten Geiger counter so that she could report to the parents weekly what the radiation levels are at the kindergarten.
I have a feeling that the principal was thinking I could walk into the nearest Target and buy her a Geiger counter. Excuse me, no. (I did try Radio Shack and an electronics store.) Geiger counters are not sold over the counter. And did I even know what kind of Geiger counter I wanted? I seemed to recall that there had been different types of radiation mentioned in the news.
I contacted Leiya's former host father and asked for his advice (he studied nuclear science) and he directed me to a website with very military looking, heavy equipment Geiger counters. But sorry, I wasn't going to be able to carry THAT back in my suitcase. I e-mailed the principal and gave her the information asking her what I should do next. Was THIS what she had in mind? Was THIS what she wanted to spend her money on? (And she was willing to pay a lot!!!) My mission got put on hold while the principal thought things out.
On another day I got my friend Mr. Suga involved and he introduced me to his scientist friend who specialized in air control. Wow! I got a whole lesson over lunch on what radiation monitoring really entailed! And more opinions on what I should buy!
But I failed in my quest because when I finally pressed the button to order a Geiger counter (I figured it could be shipped to Japan), I was given a message that they were temporarily sold out due to "recent events in Japan". I guess a lot of people are concerned about the radiation levels in the world. I came back to Japan with a folder full of information for the kindergarten principal and she decided herself on a Geiger counter and put in an order. Supposedly the kindergarten will have its own Geiger counter sometime in February... Radiation isn't something that is going to go away (unfortunately) so she figures a late Geiger counter is better than no Geiger counter at all.
And in case anyone is interested, Japan is having a hard time dealing with radiation residue right now. All those playgrounds that tested positive for excess radiation have had the topsoil removed and the contaminated soil is being somewhat contained in sheds and under tarps until the government can figure out where to dispose of the stuff (so that it doesn't get into water resources.) It doesn't sound very contained just under tarps... And the ashes from incineration centers for our garbage also register high levels of radiation so the government is trying to figure out some safe way to seal that residue also.
A Geiger counter may be a necessary appliance in the Japanese household someday. I guess I'd rather not know... sigh.