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Fukushima farmers launch online blitz for produce hit by coronavirus epidemic

17 May 2020

The Fukushima Prefectural Headquarters of the National Federation of Agricultural Cooperatives (Zen-Noh) has embarked on a project to develop new sales channels based on the internet to promote the consumption of local agricultural and livestock products that have seen a slump in demand mainly due to consumers being discouraged from dining out amid the coronavirus epidemic. One idea broached is the creation of new menus using prefectural produce by seeking cooperation from cooking researchers and other people active in the Tokyo metropolitan region. It calls for these recipes and charms of Fukushima produce to be conveyed to consumers through a blog.

The Fukushima chapter of Zen-Noh is starting the blog for the first time in partnership with a popular cooking site known as “Recipe Blog.” It has commissioned the role of a Fukushima food monitor to 10 cooking professionals, including researchers and housewives experienced in home-style cuisine. The monitors, active from May to February next year, will write on the blog their self-created meals and recipes based on the “koshihikari” variety of rice from the Aizu region and other Fukushima products, including beef, cucumbers, tomatoes, peaches and pears. The chapter intends to draw attention to the tastiness of prefectural products and inspire blog readers to buy them.

According to the Fukushima group, some local farm products have experienced plummeting prices with lower demand in the aftermath of continued restaurant shutdowns stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic. How to step up consumption is a challenging issue as summer draws near when farm produce shipments increase. Meanwhile, consumers are being urged to refrain from non-essential outings and avoid the “three Cs” of staying in confined, crowded and closed environments, making it difficult to stage taste-and-buy campaigns at markets and mass merchandise stores. These factors have led the group to judge it necessary to use an internet-based marketing strategy.

“The trend of eating at home is gaining momentum in the wake of voluntarily refraining from dining out,” says an official of the Fukushima headquarters. “We would like to send out information widely on the attractiveness of prefectural food ingredients and raise the level of their consumption.”

Cuisine based on Fukushima produce can be seen on the “Recipe Blog” site by entering the phrase “Fukushima Cooking Ambassador” in Japanese on the top page.

(Translated by Kyodo News)

10 May 2020

U.S.-grown rice brewed into sake in Fukushima

Rice harvested at a Japanese-founded farm in the U.S. state of California has been turned into sake by a brewery in the Fukushima Prefecture city of Nihonmatsu. The late Keisaburo Koda, the pioneering farmer hailing from Ogawa-machi in the city of Iwaki in the prefecture, succeeded in developing a large-scale rice plantation in California, establishing Koda Farms. The brewery, Ninki Shuzo, is soliciting buyers of the rice wine, dubbed “Uka” (eclosion), via a crowdfunding campaign through June 12.

Koda Farms, located in a central California valley, cultivates rice and other farm produce free from agrochemicals. Its third-generation leader, Ross Koda, proposed the rice wine project in a bid to produce sake with the farm’s rice and show gratitude to his grandfather’s hometown. Offering cooperation for the project was Yujin Yusa, president of Ninki Shuzo.

The rice varieties used for the sake-brewing project were two organic Koda breeds certified in the United States, “Kokuho Rose” and “Calhikari.” In general, the Kokuho (heirloom) Rose variety is not suitable for sake brewing. But the brewery spent a long time polishing it, coming up with sake that has a sophisticated bouquet, a well-balanced flavor and is easy on the palate. Meanwhile, sake made from Calhikari (a Californian “koshihikari” rice breed) tastes refreshing and crisp, and adds zest to a meal, according to the brewery.

Both types of sake are available in 720-milliliter bottles. Through June 12, a set of both bottles sells for 6,600 yen, two sets (four bottles) for 11,550 yen, three sets (six bottles) for 16,500 yen and six sets (12 bottles) for 31,000 yen (all including tax). “These are products only available during the crowdfunding campaign,” says Yusa. “I would like drinkers to enjoy the taste, which differs from sake made from domestic rice.”

The campaign website:

[Photo] Two types of “Uka” sake brewed with California rice

(Translated by Kyodo News)

20 April 2020

J-Village exec says event resumption not in sight as it greets 1st anniversary of full reopening

The J-Village sports complex greeted the first anniversary of its full reopening on April 20 after it was closed following the 2011 nuclear accident at Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc.’s Fukushima Daiichi plant caused by a devastating earthquake and ensuing tsunami. The complex, straddling the Fukushima Prefecture towns of Naraha and Hirono, saw the number of users recover to 490,000 in fiscal 2019 ended March 31, 2020, nearing the pre-disaster annual peak of half a million.

Eiji Ueda, vice president of J-Village Inc., spoke ahead of the anniversary in an interview with Fukushima-Minpo Co., publisher of the namesake local vernacular daily. The 66-year-old executive of the complex-operating company said sports events and other activities are not underway at J-Village amid the global spread of the new coronavirus disease, but noted that it will prepare to provide new services, including live streaming of athletic events, in anticipation of the time when the COVID-19 pandemic is brought under control.

Following are excerpts from the interview.

Q: Please look back over the past year.

A: We had many people use our facilities until the spread of coronavirus infections, feeling a good response. I believe we were able to achieve a turnout figure near our target thanks to all the eager people working at the facilities and cooperation from local municipalities and business establishments.

Q: J-Village is expected to play a leading role in expanding the number of visitors to the Futaba-gun (county) region, right?

A: About 30,000 people visited the “Futaba World” event held here last October, promoting friendship. The purpose of using J-Village has spread to sports other than soccer, such as rugby, American football and flying disc competitions. We would like to take advantage of this trend to increase the number of visitors staying at J-Village accommodations, which totaled about 40,000 in the last fiscal year.

Q: What sort of effort are you going to make from now on?

A: During the J-Village Cup soccer tournament last December, we live-streamed games on a trial basis, drawing a favorable response from players’ parents. If participating teams analyze games using video images distributed, they can try to strengthen both teams and players. We would like to promote J-Village’s own services using new technologies and help expand the use of our facilities.

Q: The spread of coronavirus infections is causing widespread adverse effects...

A: We remain in a situation where we cannot have any future prospect in sight at all. We are keeping our pitches in the best condition possible in preparation for the day when we will return to normal. We can only wish that the epidemic will come to an end as soon as possible.

[Photo] Vice President Ueda recalls the past year since the full reopening

(Translated by Kyodo News)

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