Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Yellow sand

On 21st March, hubby and I went for weekly grocery shopping. On reaching the open car parking area of our apartment building, we noticed that all the cars were dirty and covered with a layer of dust. The previous night it had rained heavily, and dirty yellow-brownish droplets of water covered the glass panes and exterior of all the cars at the parking lot. I looked around and saw that entire Yurihonjo city was covered with a blanket of dirt and dust. We were amazed to see such a phenomenon. Seeing so much dirt and dust around us, I felt a bit nostalgic and even little bit happy! This is because I felt that I was in my own hometown in India, which nowadays seems to be covered with dust and dirt 24 hours a day.

A few photos of our car covered with dirt and dust

The dust and dirt all around us was due to yellow sand (also known as Asian dust or yellow dust). Yellow sand is a seasonal phenomenon which affects East Asia sporadically usually during the springtime. The dust originates in the deserts of Mongolia and northern China where high speed surface winds and dust storms kick up dense clouds of fine dry soil particles. These clouds are then carried eastward by prevailing winds and pass over China, Korea, and Japan. While the yellow sand passes over China, it usually mixes with industrial pollutants, which makes such storms hazardous and toxic. Areas affected by the dust have decreased visibility and the dust is known to cause a variety of health problems. Although yellow sand swept over most of Japan facing Japan-Sea side on 20th and 21st March, it was not as intense and severe as in China and Korea.

Our car looked rather dirty and so hubby decided to wash the car before going for shopping. He washed the car at an automatic car wash machine at a gas station near our home. As I have written in an earlier post, automatic car wash machines are very common sights at gas stations in Japan. These machines are generally of the type called exterior rollover car wash, which cleans the exterior of the cars. These fully automatic machines are self operated and are very simple to use. A computerized cashier offers several menu options like ‘shampoo wash’ or ‘wax wash’ to choose and select from. This time hubby chose ‘shampoo wash’. After purchasing the ticket, he moved our car to the car washing booth area and checked that the side mirrors were retracted, emergency parking brake was pulled, and the engine was stopped. Then the car wash equipment moved back and forth over our car on a little track set into the ground and performed specific functions such as applying soap, rinse or blow dry with each pass. The entire process of car wash took only about two minutes and our car became incredibly clean. Hubby took a video of the car wash from inside the car.
Automatic car wash machine at a gas station

The notice on the left explains the car specifications and things (antenna, side mirrors etc.) to check before car wash. The notice on the right shows various kinds of washing menu options.

Video of automatic car wash taken from inside the car

A few photos of our shining clean car after washing

Apparently, the yellow sand and dust particles were still there in the air, and the next morning our car was again covered with dirt! Now we are waiting for the next weekend to wash our car again.

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