I spent this summer in Japan making pottery and doing some museum research. Returned about 3 weeks ago. I am there just about every year. I was there in 2011 right after the earthquake, tsunami, and meltdowns also. In fact twice in 2011. Deliberately went thru Sendai and into the Tohoku region.
If you are there... you know that the press there is covering the situation at Fukushima at a pretty high level. Much more than we get here in the States (since I have returned home). Stuff we are just hearing about now in our media here I saw months ago in Japan. Things that were said would not likely work in the Japanese press or that were really bad ..... the local press is NOT yet saying.
That being said...........
I can think of no country in the world (except maybe Russia...with Cherynoble) where the populace would be more "sensitive" to issues of radiation. They are the only nation that has had nuclear bombs used in warfare on their territory. So I would imagine that there is a "collective gestalt" about the potential dangers of radiation that kind of absorbed as one grows up in that culture. Likely that fear is a bit "larger than life".
So how do you "weigh" the accuracy of the concerns of those people you are meeting? Are they scientists, or laypeople? What information are they basing their fears upon? It is human nature to say things like, "It is really bad over there but things are fine here." It makes you feel better about your situation.
I've seen conflicting information out of many different sources there in Japan. Since in 2011 as a college professor I was responsible for taking college students to Japan, I spent a LOT of time researching the science behind radiation exposure and such. I teach technical ceramics, so I have a bit of a "Tech Weenie" side to me.
The upshot of that information (and I still watch what I can since I go there so often) said that for the most part, other than very close in to Fukushima Daichi, and other than for long term exposures (living there), it is not all that bad. I personally wouldn't eat stuff grown in Fukushima-ken or some of the immediate close downwind locations, and I certainly would not eat seafood from that section of the coast.
And if teas have been tested....... and show level below the current regulation point..... I wouldn't really worry too much about that either. I brought some Shizuoka tea home with me.
I am NOT in any way downplaying the mess at Fukushima at ALL. It is a disaster that we have not yet figured out HOW to contain. It is not a Japanese problem... it is everyone's problem....... becasue there are such reactors everywhere. It CAN happen here. I personally think the freezing the ground approach is a pie in the sky approach... and expect it to take longer than planned and not work as planned. Then they'll be on to "Plan Q".
People get hysterical when the word "radiation" comes up. Some of that fear is warranted..... but most is not based in facts or science.
And human beings are hardwired to respond much more strongly to threatening/negative stimuli than to reassuring/positive incoming data. That's a good thing, it prevents us from being distracted by the lovely flowers when a bear is approaching, but as a retired psychotherapist I'm especially acutely aware of distortion that accrues when limbic system alarms go off (and tangle with memory etc., as you point out) in more ambiguous situations. It also seems obvious to remember that the threat to growers, distributers and much larger governing interests in all of this will trigger conflicting and emotionally charged distortions, too - it's not necessarily dishonest on either end, just a matter of reflexive information selection.
I'm no expert in any of this though I do touch in on related news, blogs, etc. Given the fairly frequent flow of "new disclosures" from the site, relevant to tea or not, I only would say that vendors who continue to privately test and publish verifiable results despite higher government standards (also controversial because of new testing methodology, as I understand it) would reassure buyers in the most direct and immediate way. Is that testing an expensive or terribly time consuming process? Why not just make that a standard procedure until people, in Japan and elsewhere, are no longer anxious about the issue, irritatingly reactive as they might seem?