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Ratio of consumers hesitating to buy Fukushima food hits new record low

8 March 2018

The proportion of consumers who listed Fukushima Prefecture as an area of food production they hesitate to buy from stood at a new record low of 12.7% in a government agency survey taken in February, falling below the previous record low of 13.2% logged in the preceding poll in August last year. The finding was among the results of the 11th survey on consumer awareness about radioactive substances in food announced by the Consumer Affairs Agency on March 7.

The survey has been conducted semiannually since February 2013 covering residents in Tokyo, Osaka and other urban areas as well as in regions hit by the Great East Japan Earthquake. The latest survey, taken on Feb. 1-5 over the Internet, collected answers from 5,176 consumers.

Of the respondents, 32.6% cited "difference in quality (taste) according to production area" as a reason for caring about where food is produced. The ratio of consumers replying that they "want to buy food without it containing radioactive materials" has been sagging since the eighth survey in August 2016, hitting another new low of 16.2% in the latest survey.

On the other hand, 36.0% did not know tests are being conducted to detect radioactive substances in food. The proportion of respondents similarly replying has been hovering around a level slightly below 40% since the sixth survey in August 2015.

The findings "reveal a weakening sense of wariness over radioactive substances contained in food, and that a cautious feeling toward products from disaster-affected areas is also diminishing," an agency official said. But the official believes that information on radioactive materials, tests on them and other matters have not spread fully, adding that the agency will continue aggressive efforts to send out precise information on food safety.

The agency also published the same day the results of its first survey on awareness over food safety in connection with radioactive substances. It showed that 18.1% of respondents buy at least one of four categories of Fukushima-produced food (vegetables/fruit, rice, beef and seafood). As reasons for doing so, the largest proportion -- 40.9% -- said they "want to support the prefecture and producers," followed by 38.3% who cited "tastiness," 27.3% who "understand the safety" and 22.3% who said it is "because tests are being conducted for radioactive substances."

Meanwhile, 18.5% do not buy any food in the four categories, with the largest ratio of 42.5% giving "no particular reason," followed by 33.2% who see no such food on sale in daily life. More than 10% -- 13.9% -- cited anxiety about radioactive materials. On the other hand, nearly half the respondents -- 46.7% -- said they do not know at all whether or not they have purchased Fukushima products in the four categories, while 16.8% do not buy or are uncertain if they have bought them.

On the occasion of the seventh anniversary of the 2011 earthquake and ensuing nuclear accident at Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s Fukushima Daiichi plant, the agency sought to grasp the current state of consumer awareness not confirmed by conventional surveys. Responding to the first awareness survey were 7,050 people in all 47 prefectures across Japan.

(Translated by Kyodo News)

1 March 2018

No. of foreigners staying overnight in Fukushima Pref. in 2017 tops pre-quake levels

The cumulative number of non-Japanese travelers who stayed overnight or longer in Fukushima Prefecture totaled 94,000 in 2017, a 31.9 percent surge from 2016, exceeding pre-disaster levels for the first time. Non-Japanese lodgers numbered 87,170 in 2010, the year before the Great East Japan Earthquake and ensuing nuclear accident at Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s Fukushima Daiichi plant. The figures were among national data announced by the Japan Tourism Agency on Feb. 28. They covered accommodation facilities with 10 employees or more each.

In 2011, the year of the disaster, non-Japanese visitors to Fukushima shrank in number to less than 30 percent of the previous year's level due to the March 11 quake and nuclear accident. But their numbers have since recovered year by year. Taiwan topped the 2017 list with the most visitors at 23,750, followed by China with 16,860, Thailand with 8,720 and the United States with 7,730.

According to the prefectural government, sightseeing spots in Fukushima popular among non-Japanese tourists include Tsurugajo Castle, the old post station town of Ouchijuku and the scenic area of Urabandai which is dotted with hot springs. Prefectural officials attributed the growth in non-Japanese visitors to efforts to send out detailed sightseeing information through such means as an official website offered in various languages, social media and original video clips.

(Translated by Kyodo News)

25 February 2018

Project to support 59 municipalities: Okuma town in the news Public corporation to act as agent for real estate deals in evacuated town

The wholly evacuated Fukushima Prefecture town of Okuma is poised to beef up support for the use of real estate from fiscal 2018, beginning on April 1, in an attempt timed with accelerating moves to remove an evacuation zone set up after the 2011 nuclear accident at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima Daiichi plant. Without any real estate agent available in the deserted town, the municipal office will use “Okuma Town-Building Public Corporation” as a single channel for consultations and referrals regarding land for residential and business use as well as vacant houses and offices, linking owners hoping to rent or sell off their property with their potential users in a smooth fashion. The town, which hosts the crippled plant together with the neighboring town of Futaba, hopes the support will lead to its restoration by spurring permanent returns of evacuated residents and business reconstruction.

In Okuma, work to establish a reconstruction hub is making headway, spearheaded by the construction of a new municipal office building in the Ogawara district. The town is seeking to complete the project within fiscal 2019. In November last year, the central government authorized part of a “difficult-to-return” zone in Okuma as one of the “specified reconstruction footholds” in the prefecture. The town is set to promote state-funded decontamination work and infrastructure establishment in the foothold area, about 860 hectares, with a view to elimination of an evacuation order by around the spring of 2022. As real estate agents remain unable to do business in Okuma, the town office sees the need to offer support on real estate utilization in preparation for permanent returns of residents.

The planned consultative and referral services will be commissioned to the public corporation, set up in October last year. The corporation will act as a channel for such services, playing matchmaker between landowners or leaseholders desiring to rent or sell land and buildings, and companies hoping to use them for business operations or individuals wishing to live in the town.

At present, the corporation is based in the town’s branch office in Aizuwakamatsu city, about 100 kilometers west of Okuma, and has two employees. It is scheduled to hire about four more people and move the base to Okuma’s branch office in Iwaki city, some 40 km to the south of the town, in April. Some evacuated Okuma residents complain it is hard to find the town office’s right contact point as different sections are in charge depending on types of land. The planned switch to one consultation window is expected to improve the convenience of townspeople.

Acreage to be covered by the public corporation’s consulting services is about 68 square meters, excluding an area of some 11 sq km to be used as a site for interim storage of contaminated waste. The corporation believes that if the prospect of substantial tracts of land being arranged for rent or sale rises, it will add momentum to the establishment of the reconstruction hub for permanent returns of evacuees.

But there are many plots of land not ready for use in the difficult-to-return zone, which needs cleanup work and infrastructure establishment. The town will store information on the intentions of landowners and leaseholders in a database for use as factors to be taken into account in establishing infrastructure. It will use the information to help facilitate smooth land utilization after decontamination is completed by the national government.

For inquiries, call 0242-23-7522 until the end of March and 0246-85-5237 from April at "Okuma Town-Building Public Corporation."

(Translated by Kyodo News)

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