Asbestos

Check out this article in the Guardian: Japan’s asbestos time bomb
This is a HUGE problem on my island. Before they built the longest, tallest, and most expensive suspension bridge in the world between Awaji Island and Kobe, the only way to cross was by ferry. Hundreds of ferry boats operated by several companies made the trip between the island and the mainland (mainly Kobe and Osaka) every day. Of course, the bridge eventually killed this industry, and predictably, left thousands of locals without jobs.
My company employs several of those ex-ferry workers. In fact, the guy who sits right next to me is one of them, and he is talking about going in for tests not covered by our yearly physical because his wife is worried sick. You see, his job on the ferry often consisted of tying down stuff with lines, and the ropes they used were apparently partially made of thickly braided asbestos strands. They used the same type of ropes right up until the ferry company went out of business…. There’s not much you can say to someone after they tell you something like that, is there?
Well, I gave him an apple I picked up in the cafeteria today and told him that in the states, we say it “keeps the doctor away.”
The poor bastard grinned at me, then ate the whole thing, core and seeds and all. He is just living day-to-day and hoping for the best, I guess.
What the fuck else can he do?

4 Replies to “Asbestos”

  1. Oh, didn’t know you lived on Awaji-shima. I was forced to go to Awaji Hanahaku TWICE. That was perhaps the blandest, most anti-fun event I ever went to. The only cool thing was that in one area there were some wacked out anthropomorphic bat skeletons on display. My Japanese was somewhat limited at the time, so I can’t be sure quite what they had to do with the massive display of flowers and other flora that was going.
    Man that sucked. Maybe if you’re a 50 year-old obasan you can appreciate the flowers though. One of the times I got free beer though. So I guess you win some you lose some.
    Things like this recent asbestos thing in Japan remind you of how fucked up the modern world is. Take the Awaji Hanahaku for instance. They took the crater that was left over when they dug up thousands of tons of dirt to build the manmade island that makes up Kansai airport and turned it into –what else? — a giant monument to nature’s beauty.

  2. Tom – I asked him about this, but he says that’s not what they do in Japan – a very unsurprising attitude. Plus, he pointed out that the company went bankrupt.
    Adamu – You know the extensions they are building to Kanku? Yep, you guessed it – more craters where mountains used to be. And they are still having problems with the original one because after Hanahaku left, the yak who had promised to buy the land and develop it into a world-class golf resort mysteriously disappeared. It is now the site of Awaji Kaikyo Koen, where several hundred yen will get you in to see planted rows of flowers and one of the greatest wastes of money of all time – a high title to aspire to in Japan, as you know.

  3. Yeah, I’ve heard that the Japanese tort system is fucked. A friend of mine has lived/worked in Tokyo for years, and said more than once that “there are too many lawyers in the US, and not enough in Japan” to make a difference.
    What a shame. Bute even if the company went belly-up, a large monetary judgement against the company would send a clear message to other companies that if they don’t care for their workers, they’re gonna pay. The only message it sends now is, “carry on.”
    Based on that uniform your company makes you wear, the labor movement in Japan isn’t much more than a fart in the wind.

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