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Tohoku "Kizuna" Festival in Fukushima draws 300,000 visitors, Yamagata named next year's host city

3 June 2019

The Tohoku "Kizuna" (unity) Festival 2019 closed its two-day run in the city of Fukushima on June 2, successfully bringing together six festivals from around Japan's northeastern Tohoku region.

On the final day, some 147,000 people visited the event, taking the total number of visitors to about 308,000, according to organizers. The two-day turnout was more than the 300,000 anticipated by the executive committee. At the event's closing ceremony, Fukushima Mayor Hiroshi Kohata, chairman of the committee, announced that next year's festival will be held in the city of Yamagata on May 30-31.

As its main event, a parade was led off by performers of the "Fukushima Waraji (straw sandal) Festival" from the host city, as was done the previous day, followed by those from the "Yamagata Hanagasa (flower hat) Festival," the "Morioka Sansa Odori (dance) Festival," the "Sendai Tanabata (star) Festival" and the "Aomori Nebuta (paper lantern float) Festival." They walked a loop of some 1.1 kilometers mainly on Route 4, while performers of the "Akita Kanto (pole of lanterns) Festival" pulled off stunning performances in several places along the course, hoisting a total of 16 long bamboo poles with paper lanterns attached. Festival performers acted with all their heart in a show of gratitude toward support for reconstruction from the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and ensuing tsunami that devastated the Pacific coastal region of Tohoku.

Highlighting the parade's finale on their way back, all of the approximately 1,200 participants performed in unison to the Aomori Nebuta Festival music. They waved to and shook hands with roadside spectators, smiling and sharing their joy and enthusiasm with the crowd.

In addition to the parade, a main venue and four subsidiary venues were set up to allow participants to promote products and tourist attractions within various parts of Fukushima and five other prefectures in the Tohoku region.

The Tohoku Kizuna Festival is organized annually by an executive committee. It is a follow-up event to the "Tohoku Rokkon (six spirits) Festival" launched in July 2011 on the theme of recovery from the quake and subsequent nuclear accident at Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s Fukushima Daiichi plant and the repose of victims' souls. The kizuna event was first held in 2017 in Sendai city, Miyagi Prefecture, followed by one in 2018 in Morioka city, Iwate Prefecture.

【Photo】 Performers of six Tohoku festivals dance together in the finale of a Tohoku Kizuna Festival parade on Route 4 in the city of Fukushima on the afternoon of June 2, bringing together spirits of Tohoku’s six prefectures.

(Translated by Kyodo News)

24 May 2019

Floatplane-like drone developed, makes test flights in Fukushima

Tokyo-based startup firm Space Entertainment Laboratory has succeeded in developing a fixed-wing aerial drone capable of flying from and landing on the surface of the sea or a river, according to the company. It has an agreement with Minamisoma city, Fukushima Prefecture, on the development of industry and human resources related to drones.

On May 23, flight tests were conducted over the Haragama-Obama bathing beach in Soma city. The company is seeking to commercialize the floatplane-like drone within the next fiscal year, beginning in April 2020, in anticipation of applications in the fisheries industry such as fish detection, marine salvage and water quality surveys.

A fixed-wing drone that can take off from and land on the water surface is rare globally, according to the company. It used the prefectural government's subsidy program for regional revitalization projects in developing the craft. The body of the drone is made of carbon fiber that has strong impact resistance. It is about 2 meters long, with its main wing about 3 meters long, and weighs about 15 kilograms. The company plans to strengthen its waterproof property and take other measures to improve the product ahead of its commercial use.

The company is set to hold drone classes for grade and junior high school students in Minamisoma while engaging in technological development together with local firms. "We would like to send out information on globally applicable leading-edge technology from Minamisoma to the rest of the world," said Masata Kaneda, 35, president of Space Entertainment Laboratory.

【Photo】 Fixed-wing drone makes test flight over water surface off Haragama-Obama bathing beach in Soma city, Fukushima Prefecture.

(Translated by Kyodo News)

10 May 2019

Drone-based system developed for aerial radiation measurement in Fukushima

The Japan Atomic Energy Agency has developed a system employing aerial drones that can measure distribution of radioactive substances across a wide area and generate a 3D display, agency officials said May 9. The JAEA aims to put the system into practical use in fiscal 2019 ending next March.

Conventionally, radiation dosage data is collected on foot or from a car using measuring equipment. But the use of drones facilitates low-cost, prompt identification of situations in areas where it is difficult for residents to return home due to high levels of radiation, or hot spots where radiation dosage is relatively higher than in the wider neighborhood, as a result of the 2011 nuclear accident at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima Daiichi plant.

In difficult-to-return zones, decontamination is under way only in places designated as "specified reconstruction and revitalization bases," while almost no clean-up operations are undertaken elsewhere. The JAEA system is expected to be useful for future decontamination work and many other purposes, including as reference data for the permanent return of residents and for ensuring the safety of clean-up workers.

The development project was also joined by Chiyoda Technol Corp., a Tokyo-based company engaged in the development of dosimeters and other products. Local company Sakae Seisakusho in Minamisoma city also cooperated.

A small, light camera capable of capturing radioactive substances and adding color to the display is mounted on the drone. The camera can show such substances on the ground and in the air as gray-scaled images in color.

A test was conducted last January in a difficult-to-return zone. The system identified the distribution of radioactive substances in an area some 7,000 square meters wide in about 30 minutes. A similar experiment undertaken in the same area using conventional measuring equipment took more than half a day, partly because of vegetation left unkempt in some places, according to officials involved.

Aerial monitoring that surveys radiation dosage with helicopters and other aircraft is in operation, but drones can sharply reduce the cost of measurement compared with aircraft surveys, according to the JAEA.

The drone system "enables us to understand conditions of contamination in wide areas promptly," said Yuki Sato, a researcher at the Collaborative Laboratories for Advanced Decommissioning Science in the JAEA’s Sector of Fukushima Research & Development. "It is also expected to be used for other work, including decommissioning of the Tokyo Electric Power Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant."

Sato and other JAEA officials spoke about the system at a press conference in the Fukushima prefectural government office in Fukushima city on May 9.

"Technology permitting the geographical identification of radiation dosage at a lower cost is indispensable for the decommissioning work which takes a long time," said an official of the prefectural government’s office promoting the robotics industry. "The system, which has been completed by integrating various technologies, can possibly be employed in other new projects."

(Translated by Kyodo News)

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