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Relocated JFA soccer school seen returning to Fukushima in FY 2021

23 April 2017

The Japan Football Association (JFA) is considering moving back its soccer school for teens to Fukushima Prefecture as soon as fiscal 2021 from Shizuoka Prefecture where it has been relocated following the 2011 earthquake, tsunami and ensuing nuclear accident at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima Daiichi plant. JFA Academy Fukushima, designed to nurture junior and senior high school students as soccer players, will use the J-Village facility for training. The facility, which straddles the towns of Naraha and Hirono, is scheduled to fully reopen in the spring of 2019 after being used as a forward base for dealing with the nuclear disaster.

The above move was revealed by JFA President Kozo Tajima on April 22 during an interview with Fukushima-Minpo Co., publisher of the namesake vernacular newspaper. In resuming the JFA school, the national governing body for soccer plans to solicit students from within and outside Fukushima when they enter junior high schools. JFA Academy Fukushima students will receive junior to senior high school education in an integrated manner at Futaba Future Junior High School (scheduled to open in the 2019 school year) and the existing Futaba Future High School, both in Hirono, so that they will become high-level players.

The JFA is negotiating for the planned move with parties concerned, including the Fukushima prefectural education board and Naraha and Hirono municipalities as well as the Shizuoka side that has accepted the academy since the disaster.

The JFA is expected to determine when to move the academy back to Fukushima taking into account such factors as usage of J-Village after it reopens and the trend in evacuated residents returning to their hometowns to resume living there permanently. “We will tackle the matter with a determination to start from scratch,” Tajima said in the interview. “We hope to boost enthusiasm for soccer in Fukushima and that this will lead to the reconstruction of disaster-hit areas.”

(Translated by Kyodo News)

21 April 2017

Commercial complex opens in Iwaki city's tsunami-ravaged area

A commercial complex opened on April 20 in Iwaki city's Hisanohama-machi district that was devastated by the massive tsunami caused by the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake. The one-story "Hamakaze Kirara" building houses seven shops, including a Japanese restaurant, a delicatessen, a beauty parlor and a cafe. They have been crowded with many visitors since the opening day.

The complex was built at a total cost of about 200 million yen by Hamakaze Kirara corporate entity to restore a shopping street in Hisanohama-machi and create more bustle in the neighborhood. The project was financed by a subsidy from the central government's fund to create jobs and attract businesses in communities affected by the tsunami and ensuing nuclear plant accident. The light-gauge steel-frame building has a total floor space of about 800 square meters. Besides the shops, a local commerce and industry chamber has an office and a post office is scheduled to open this summer.

The complex, located some 300 meters east of East Japan Railway Co.'s Hisanohama Station, stands on a tract of land in an area developed under a Hisanohama land readjustment project for post-disaster reconstruction undertaken by the city.

A completion ceremony for the complex was held in front of the building. "We hope to make it a place long cherished for the sake of children who bear the future of this community," said Shigeyuki Takagi , 60, president of Hamakaze Kirara. Congratulatory speeches were given by guests, including State Minister for Reconstruction Hiroaki Nagasawa and Iwaki Mayor Toshio Shimizu. These and other officials then cut the ribbon to mark the occasion.

(Translated by Kyodo News)

20 April 2017

Unmanned tractor undergoes public demonstration in Iwaki

An unmanned tractor went on a demonstration run in Iwaki city, Fukushima Prefecture, on April 19 as part of a project to turn the Hamadori coastal region into an advanced area for the development of robotics and other cutting-edge technologies. The "robot tractor" experiment, shown to the public, was conducted in the city’s Nishiki-machi district under the Fukushima International Research Industrial City (Innovation Coast) Framework funded by the central government.

The tractor project is being undertaken by the “medium-size robot tractor development group” comprising the Fukushima Agricultural Technology Center, Iseki & Co. and Nanso Green Farm. The idea is to develop an unattended robot tractor for labor-saving agriculture, among other purposes.

In the demonstration run watched by about 30 people, including local farmers, the remote-controlled tractor cultivated a paddy field about 54 ares wide. The group is set to develop additional functions, including fertilizer application, soil puddling and soybean seed sowing. It is seeking to commercialize the robot tractor in fiscal 2018 beginning next April.

"We hope to save labor in agriculture amid a decline in the farming population," said Akihiro Machida of Advanced Technology Engineering Department at Iseki, a major agricultural machinery maker.

But the projected retail price of the tractor is expected to be about 1.5 times that of a conventional model. “It may be difficult for farmers to buy new agricultural machinery given sagging rice prices,” said Shinichi Akatsu , a 70-year-old farmer who was among the spectators.

(Translated by Kyodo News)

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