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Prize-winning author Miri Yu revives theatrical unit in Fukushima

15 September 2018

"Seishun Gogatsuto" (literally meaning Adolescent May Party), a theatrical group owned by Akutagawa literary prize-winning author Miri Yu, performed for the first time in about a quarter-century at her home-cum-bookstore in the Odaka district of Minamisoma, Fukushima Prefecture, on Sept. 14. The performance was staged at "LaMaMa ODAKA," a mini theater under construction in the compounds of the Full House bookstore.

On stage were six female students of a drama club of Futaba Future High School in the prefectural town of Hirono, among other players. They enthusiastically performed a play incorporating their own experiences in the Great East Japan Earthquake and ensuing nuclear accident at Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s Fukushima Daiichi plant. The actors thus helped bond residents in disaster-affected regions still on their path toward reconstruction and those from other regions.

Satsuki Sekine, who played the role of "Satsuki," a peppy figure with an expressive face, finished her debut performance which the 17-year-old senior said made her so nervous that it was "one of the five most tense scenes of my life." She bowed deeply to the audience as she ended her first appearance amid long-lasting applause.

The drama, titled "Seibutsuga" (Still-life painting), is based on a novel Yu wrote when she was a 21 year old. It is a story about six members of a literature club. It depicts the effects of radioactive decontamination and evacuation that suddenly cast a shadow on daily life. Hailing from the town of Tomioka in the prefecture, Sekine had her home damaged by the massive quake-caused tsunami. The drama included scenes based on her experience in which the normally blue sea looked reddish brown at the time of the disaster, among other things.

Full-fledged rehearsals began late in July ahead of summer vacation. Two teams of players, comprising six boys and six girls each, took turns to perform. The female team held intensive rehearsals as all members could not always gather, with some going abroad on school activities.

Ahead of the real stage, Yu told the girls: "There is no mistake in a theatrical play. The time of the real performance is alive there." The actors performed in a manner conveying life and death in the aftermath of the quake and nuclear accident as well as a sense of loss resulting from memories and thoughts lost along with the passing of time. During a scene looking back over their experiences in the disaster, they had mixed feelings, with tears filling their eyes.

The female team has two performances left. "I would like to face up to my role, making good use of the rehearsals so far and respecting Yu-san's words," Sekine said.

(Photo) Female drama club members engage in a rehearsal right before putting on a real performance. Third from right is Satsuki Sekine.

(Translated by Kyodo News)

9 September 2018

Cross-discipline group launched to promote branding of Fukushima wine

An organization has been launched by industry, academic and public-sector partners in Fukushima Prefecture to establish and brand locally produced wine to help promote reconstruction from the Great East Japan Earthquake and ensuing nuclear accident at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima Daiichi plant. The group includes wineries and grape growers in nine municipalities in the prefecture. The new entity is intended to step up exchanges of technical know-how among its members. It will also cooperate with Fukushima University’s Faculty of Food and Agricultural Sciences, set to open in April 2019, to boost product quality.

■ Improved wine quality eyed via technical exchanges

The new organization, dubbed the “Fukushima Wine Wide-area Partnership Council (tentative translation),” has been set up as a voluntary group without legal status. It is headed by Professor Yoshihito Ozawa of the university's Faculty of Symbiotic Systems Science. Among the council’s members are wine- and grape-producing organizations and individuals, including Fukushima Ouse Winery in Koriyamaity, Iwaki Winery in Iwaki and Tomioka Wine Club in Tomioka, some municipalities that host wine industry-related organizations, and Fukushima University.

The group is seeking to develop Fukushima’s wine production as a “sixth industry,” a central government-advocated concept designed to make the primary industry more sophisticated by diversifying it into processing and distribution. Its management will be funded by a Cabinet Office subsidy program for regional revitalization.

In Fukushima, technological capabilities and manpower vary according to winemaking areas. How to establish a local wine production industry is a challenging issue faced by the prefecture. The council will promote branding of Fukushima wine by boosting product quality and technological levels through partnership among its members, thereby establishing local wine as a reputable product.

In cooperation with Fukushima University, the entity will also promote partnership with Yamanashi University, which has the Institute of Enology and Viticulture, the only domestic institution for wine education. Under the partnership, the council will seek to have interested parties in Fukushima take part in a Yamanashi University program through teleconferencing and other remote systems. The program is for such people as working adults and graduate students to become wine experts. The group also plans to use the outcome of research by Fukushima University’s new grape farming faculty.

In one of the initial projects in fiscal 2018, the council is scheduled to invite grape-growing specialists from across Japan to its members' vineyards to receive advice on cultivation methods, among other matters. Group members will also visit each other’s vineyards while a workshop, to which nonmember producers and others are to be invited, is planned to help them better understand the group’s activities and efforts.

In the future, the council plans to cooperate with municipalities of group members in undertaking campaigns to promote sales of Fukushima wine while holding wine tourism events that allow visitors to tour wineries in the prefecture.

“We will make efforts to build relationships in which winery operators and members of grape-growing bodies in the prefecture know one another,” said Hideya Kitamura, 57, secretary general of the council. “We hope that many wine-related parties in Fukushima will participate in the group.”

(Translated by Kyodo News)

31 August 2018

‘Senrinzaki’ chrysanthemum flowers to go on display in Singapore

“Senrinzaki” (literally, 1,000 blossoms on a single stalk) chrysanthemum flowers produced in Nihonmatsu city, Fukushima Prefecture, are scheduled to go on display from mid-September in Singapore’s popular botanical park “Gardens by the Bay.” The exhibit is intended to publicize “chrysanthemums of Nihonmatsu” and promote the globally rare flower species as a local Nihonmatsu brand to tourists visiting Singapore from around the world.

Senrinzaki features as many as 1,000 chrysanthemum flowers on a single stalk by allowing branches to repeatedly splinter. Nihonmatsu is giving priority to this and other highly sophisticated techniques for producing charming chrysanthemum artwork. The forthcoming display in Singapore was arranged as the Gardens by the Bay was looking for senrinzaki.

Nihonmatsu Kikueikai, an organization promoting chrysanthemum-based artwork, will contribute a senrinzaki pot, a pot of “hyakutarin” (literally, 100 flowers) and a chrysanthemum princess doll to the Singapore garden. The group is seeking to promote sales of such products and draw foreign visitors.

A video promoting chrysanthemums in Nihonmatsu at home and abroad has been completed. The “Chrysanthemum town Nihonmatsu branding project” video introduces beautiful senrinzaki grown in the city. Available in Japanese and English versions, the videos can be watched on YouTube: https://youtu.be/PtYndjuGKb8 (Japanese), https://youtu.be/WbRT-S0vWFM (English)

【Photos】 A Senrinzaki pot set to be displayed in Singapore

(Translated by Kyodo News)

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