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Japan Braces for Worst Drought in Decade

Wednesday, June 29, 2005 Posted: 07:44 AM JST

Japan is overheating. Yesterday Tokyo's temperatures hit 36.2 C. An all-time record for the month of June. It was recorded at Tokyo's Otemachi business district shortly before noon. It is not restricted to Tokyo. Except for northern Japan and the coastal regions, Japan is feeling the heat all over the country.

Not only are temperatures extremely high for this time of year, but there is a frightening absence of rain. The end of June is supposed the be the rainy season in Japan, but rain is hard to find. Experts predict the worst drought in over a decade.

Weather experts believe that this summer could duplicate the one in 1994. Record-breaking temperatures and a lack of rain created a major drought that year that forced many cities to turn off water supplies several hours a day.

Some restrictions have already begun. The Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport reports that as of last weekend 14 of the 109 major river systems had restrictions placed on them. Local governments are setting up task forces to counter potential water shortages.

The Asahi Shimbun reports that some farmers in the city of Yukuhashi, Fukuoka Prefecture, were unable to plant rice this year because of low water supplies. Several farmers were forced to pump water from nearby river beds.

Water levels in the Yagisawa and Shimokubo dams in Gunma Prefecture have dropped to 83 percent and 61 percent. The two dams are essential for Tokyo water supplies.

A spokesman for the Sasebo Water Bureau says that water restrictions will probably be enforced from early July if no additional rain falls. During the past month rain fall in the area was only 11 percent of the annual average according to the Nagasaki Marine Meteorological Observatory.

Weather has become a major concern in Japan the past few years. “Climate change is evident now in Japan,? said Matsumoto Seizo, vice-minister for Global Environmental Affairs at the Ministry of the Environment to foreign journalists recently. “Last year, Tokyo registered a record-breaking heat wave that reached 39.5°C and we had 70 days with a daily temperature over 30°C as well as severe typhoons." Typhoon Tokage (No. 23) that hit Japan on October 21, killed at least 93 people, injured 486 and flooded 21,783 homes.

The Japan Meteorological Agency predicts more sunny, hot days this week, and expects rain to arrive in early July. However, the Agency can't guarantee there will be enough rain to prevent a major drought. "We can't be absolutely sure," says an agency official in an Asahi interview, "that will be enough to assuage the dry spell in regions hard hit by drought."

Keywords: national_news

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The now legendary Sir Ernest Mason Satow (1843-1929) was a member of the British legation in Tokyo for twenty-one years. This classic book is based on the author's detailed diary, personal encounters, and keen memory. In it, Satow records the history of the critical years of social and political upheaval that accompanied Japan's first encounters with the West around the time of the Meiji Restoration. Fascinating.
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