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German state leader to visit Fukushima to see recovery and renewable energy efforts

10 October 2019

[Translated by the Japan Times]Minister President Armin Laschet of North Rhine-Westphalia, a state located in western Germany, is set to pay a visit to Fukushima Prefecture in January to evaluate the progress being made to implement renewable energy sources and the region’s recovery following the Great East Japan Earthquake and subsequent nuclear power plant disaster in 2011.

North Rhine-Westphalia is interested in Fukushima Prefecture’s efforts to use renewable energy following its own endeavors to divest from nuclear and coal energy, according to the prefecture.

Fukushima hopes to strengthen ties by inviting the leader of North Rhine-Westphalia, which boasts the largest economy of all 16 states in Germany, to the prefecture and foster connections through joint projects with universities and cultural exchanges, among other things.

It will be the first visit by the minister president to Fukushima. Laschet revealed his intention to visit during a meeting with Fukushima Gov. Masao Uchibori on Oct. 8 in the city of Dusseldorf, the state’s capital.

Fukushima Prefecture and North Rhine-Westphalia signed memorandums in 2014 to promote renewable energy and investment in better medical equipment, both of which were renewed in 2017. In July this year, the two were combined into one new memorandum.

Located in the central part of the country’s western region, North Rhine-Westphalia has a population of 17.8 million people - the largest among the German states - and a gross domestic product of about \81 trillion as of 2017, amounting to roughly 24 percent of the country’s GDP.

Laschet is expected to tour the Fukushima Renewable Energy Institute under the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology in the city of Koriyama. He may also visit locations that are serving as focal points of Fukushima Prefecture’s plans to become an innovation hub, such as the Fukushima Robotics Test Field in the city of Minamisoma and the Fukushima Hydrogen Energy Research Field, which will become the world’s largest hydrogen production facility upon its completion next spring.

“I want to connect with residents in Fukushima Prefecture who are working hard to recover from the earthquake and nuclear disaster, and strengthen the relationship between our two states,” Laschet said.

Uchibori said the two had been trading letters and hope to continue building their friendship.

Prior to the October meeting, Uchibori gave him several akabeko, a common toy inspired by a legendary cow from the Aizu region in Fukushima, adorned with the flags of Fukushima Prefecture, North Rhine-Westphalia and Germany.

7 November 2019

Fukushima-produced peach variety "Akatsuki" rich in sweet-aroma element: study

A team of researchers at Fukushima University said on Nov. 6 that it has found the "Akatsuki" variety of peaches produced in Fukushima Prefecture is richer than peaches of other prefectures in terms of the fragrant component called "lactones," which give off the sweet aroma characteristic of the fruit. It was announced at a press conference at the national university in Fukushima city held by the team, led by Kazuaki Yoshinaga, associate professor at the Faculty of Food and Agricultural Sciences.

The team analyzed elements of peach samples from Japan's three leading Akatsuki-producing prefectures of Fukushima, Okayama and Yamagata, using a state-of-the-art device capable of precisely measuring odor components. The study found the fruit produced in Fukushima contains more lactones than in the two other regions. In particular, the proportion of delta-decanolactone contained in Fukushima peaches of the variety was 49%, more than double the level of content in other varieties.

"We would like to deepen our observations, including whether there is any environmental factor peculiar to Fukushima, by broadening the scope of subjects covered by our study and increasing data samples," Yoshinaga said. He added that the study could be used as scientific evidence to improve the reputation of Fukushima-produced peaches and that his team "will make it into a treatise to be reported at an academic society meeting."

For their characteristic sweet aroma, lactones are used generally for perfume, daily necessities, flavoring agents, and the like.

【Photo】Associate professor Yoshinaga announces the outcome of his team's study at a press conference.

(Translated by Kyodo News)

1 November 2019

70.5% of Fukushima firms cite labor shortage as reason for hiring foreign workers

A vast majority -- 70.5% -- of companies in Fukushima Prefecture cited “response to the labor shortage” as a reason for employing foreign workers, the prefectural government said Oct. 31 in a report on its first survey on such hiring. The results made clear that various industries have turned to non-Japanese workers to secure manpower.

The survey was conducted to identify support measures for foreign residents in Fukushima matching their realities and help expand opportunities for them to find jobs in the wake of their growing numbers and enforcement of the revised Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Act, among other factors. A questionnaire was mailed to 2,635 companies in the prefecture in May, of which 1,360, or 51.6% responded.

Among reasons for employing foreigners other than the labor shortage, the second largest proportion -- 17.6% -- cited the need to “secure human resources having specialist knowledge, technical expertise and the like.”

Regarding challenging issues for employment of foreign workers, the biggest proportion -- 34.8% -- chose “difficulty with communication,” followed by 29.1% who selected “greater costs than expected.”

Nearly half the respondents -- 49.9% -- singled out “support for education for acquiring Japanese-language skills and the like” as what they expect of the government concerning employment, showing many businesses see language difficulties as a major problem. This was followed by “provision of information on relevant systems,” cited by 39.3%, and “establishment of a consultation window for corporate employers,” chosen by 39.1%.

An official of the prefecture’s department in charge of employment and labor affairs said, “We would like to analyze the survey outcome and discuss specific means of supporting employment of foreign people, and seek to resolve problems in partnership with the national government and related authorities.”

(Translated by Kyodo News)

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