In post 3/11 Japan, Geiger counters continue to be a must-have product, though the range of price and quality varies wildly. Can’t afford one? Why not rent?
Without much fanfare, home entertainment rental shop Tsutaya has started lending out Geiger counters from its shops in Fukushima Prefecture. The machines are available at six branches in Fukushima, and they are free, one per customer and one time only, with same-day return. Each shop has between 10 and 40 hand-held counters. There’s a ¥1,000 charge per day after the first day. Rental requires only a Tsutaya rental membership card and an ID, including a gaijin card or passport.
A Japanese blogger wrote this past Sunday that there was a line of about 20 people waiting for a Tsutaya in Koriyama to open, and another line formed immediately at the geiger counter rental counter.
Customers can choose whether they would like a counter made in Japan or China. As of Friday afternoon, a branch in Fukushima City had both available. Several other companies, such as Redstar and Level 7, have also been lending out the machines via online request forms, but Tsutaya seems to be the first outlet with simple walk-up availability.
Volunteers at Safecast, a volunteer group that has set up an extensive radiation monitoring system in Japan, are quick to point out that the counters being lent out by Tsutaya detect only the gamma radiation levels in the air and will not detect radiation contamination on surfaces or in food, which they consider the bigger concern right now. “People will obviously try to check the surface contamination and possibly even food, and it will give them readings that are totally off,” wrote a volunteer, who goes by the name Akiba, in the Safecast mailing list. However, he also added, “Anything helps, and there’s nothing wrong with renting geigers, especially if it makes people feel more at ease.”