It’s been a week since the Tofugu team’s gotten back from Japan and I’m reading my Twitter feed. All of a sudden, I start seeing all of these crazy pictures of Tokyo. No, Godzilla’s not attacking — the skies above Tokyo are yellow and hazy. Tokyo looks like some sort of post-apocalyptic nightmare.
I check my Instagram and it’s the same story. Picture after picture shows me a Tokyo that’s radically different from the city with clear skies I saw the week before. It looks more like LA in the summer than Tokyo in the spring.
What’s happening? Has residual radiation from Fukushima finally soured the atmosphere? Has Chinese air made of pure pollution finally made it to Japan? Is it the robot apocalypse?!
The Official Explanation
No need to fear folks, the Japan Meteorological Agency has said that it’s simply haze.
How did it happen? The story is that an unusually hot day in Tokyo coupled with a cold weather front and a strong wind helped kick up dust from the ground.
A little unusual, but certainly not anything too dangerous.
The Plausible Alternative
Or maybe it wasn’t just haze. Maybe it did, in fact, come from China.
Many people suspect that the yellow skies over Tokyo were due to a natural phenomenon called “Asian Dust,” (黄砂 in Japanese). The basic gist of Asian Dust is that windstorms carry dust, sand, and dirt from deserts in mainland Asia to Japan. Surviving in Japan has a good write up about Asian Dust.
But while Asian Dust is a natural, regular occurence, that’s not to say that it’s completely harmless. Besides the obvious problem of reduced visibility, there’s lots of other problems with Asian Dust.
Not only can strong winds from Asian Dust disrupt handshake events with your favorite idol group, it can also carry pollutants over from China and other countries on the Asian mainland. Asian Dust isn’t incredibly harmful, but it’s still a bit of a menace.
But Asian Dust isn’t even the worst possibility out there.
The Frightening Conspiracy
Assuming that these first two explanations are wrong, the only remaining possibility is that the phenomenon affecting Tokyo was entirely pollution from China. Giant clouds full of lead, asbestos, and Chinese toothpaste float over Japan, turning the country into a nightmarish hellscape.
It’s not that hard to imagine; China has had a pretty bad track record on environmental issues since Mao. The government’s philosophy has largely been “let the environment serve the people,” regardless of the cost.
And it’s really shown. Air pollution in China has literally been off the charts recently, causing Japanese people to worry about PM 2.5, or pollution that’s 2.5µm or less in diameter. PM 2.5 is dangerous because it’s small enough to penetrate deep into the body.
But why would the Japan Meteorological Agency hide all of this and say that the phenomenon was just “haze?” That’s entirely up to speculation.
Maybe China offered every JMA employee a free iPhone from Foxconn. Maybe Japan is keeping its silence in exchange for the Senkaku islands. Or maybe Japan is using China’s giant pollution clouds to turn its people into a new, mutated super race.
I’m no meteorologist, but I know one thing for sure: I have no idea what I’m talking about.
Keep asking questions. The truth is out there!