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Lifting of evacuation order eyed for parts of Okuma town in late April

11 March 2019

The central government has begun considering lifting an evacuation order as early as late April in parts of the Fukushima Prefecture town of Okuma, which remains wholly evacuated due to the nuclear accident at Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s Fukushima Daiichi power plant caused by the 2011 earthquake and ensuing tsunami, officials said March 10. It will be the first time for an evacuation order to be removed in the two towns -- Okuma and Futaba -- hosting the crippled nuclear power plant.

The government is seeking to time the move with an opening ceremony for a new Okuma town office building under construction in the Ogawara district where residency is restricted. "The town authorities intend to synchronize the removal of the evacuation order with the opening ceremony as much as possible," Hideo Yura, deputy head of the Local Nuclear Emergency Response Headquarters, told reporters after attending a briefing session conducted by the government and town for residents on March 10 in the Fukushima Prefecture city of Iwaki.

About 50 people attended the gathering. Some expressed concerns over radiation levels, while others called for the need to deal with mobile phone companies not covering some areas with their wireless networks and for measures to prevent wild boars from causing damage. During the two-day briefing, no explicit objection was expressed against the proposed elimination of the evacuation order.

The order is to be lifted in the Nakayashiki district, designated as a zone preparing for the termination of evacuation, as well as in the residency-restricted Ogawara district. Residents registered as of the end of February are 21 people belonging to 11 households in Nakayashiki and 353 belonging to 129 households in Ogawara. Of them, 48 people in 21 households have registered as townspeople allowed to stay at their residences overnight in preparation for a permanent homecoming.

The town office is set to discuss the timing of evacuees returning home with the municipal assembly on the basis of the outcome of the briefing sessions. It will then coordinate its schedule with the national government, which will make a final decision. "We would like to see the evacuation order lifted as soon as possible in order to take a step forward toward our town's rebirth," Okuma Mayor Toshitsuna Watanabe said.

(Translated by Kyodo News)

1 March 2019

Composer Koseki, Fukushima native, to be featured in NHK’s morning TV drama series

Public broadcaster NHK announced on Feb. 28 that it will air a morning TV drama series next year modeled on Yuji Koseki, the late composer of popular songs hailing from Fukushima city, and his wife Kinko. In the drama titled “Yell,” actor Masataka Kubota will play the lead role. Beginning in the spring of 2020, the six-month drama will provide a nationwide audience with a story set against a Fukushima backdrop in the year of the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games.

The central character will be known as Yuichi Koyama, born to a generations-old kimono merchant family in Fukushima city. A timid youth, Koyama comes across music one day, learning composition through self-education and eventually bringing his music-making talent into full bloom.

High hopes have been placed on him as heir to the family business and he initially works at a commercial bank but is unable to abandon his longing for music. He gets acquainted with a female student hoping to be a singer and their feelings for each other develop via correspondence. Eventually, they decide to tread a musical path together. The drama follows the couple as they overcome various hardships, including being forced to compose popular songs lauding patriotism during World War II, before turning their talents to writing music to encourage people in the postwar period.

The drama will remake the Kosekis’ story as fiction, portraying them as a couple who cheer people up with music and capture their imagination, according to NHK. The script will be written by Koji Hayashi, who is known as a screenwriter for such dramas as “Code Blue: Doctor Heli -- Kinkyu Kyumei (Emergency Lifesaving),” “Iryu: Team Medical Dragon” and “Hagetaka (Vulture).”

“I will act with all my strength and all my heart,” actor Kubota told a press conference at the NHK Broadcasting Center in Tokyo. “I wish I could ‘yell’ support for people in Fukushima.” Katsuhiro Tsuchiya, NHK executive producer, said he “wanted to show support for Fukushima before a decade passes since the Great East Japan Earthquake” of 2011 and “was searching for a drama theme” associated with Fukushima.

The role of the drama’s heroine, to be modeled on Kinko, will be played by a successful candidate to be chosen by June after a round of auditions scheduled for March to April.

(Translated by Kyodo News)

24 February 2019

Iitate junior high schoolers join “host town summit” for Tokyo Olympics

A group of students from Iitate Junior High School in the Fukushima Prefecture village of Iitate participated in a “host town summit” in Tokyo on Feb. 23 ahead of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics, showcasing their activities associated with Laos. Iitate has been selected to connect with Laos under the “Arigato (thank you) Host Town for Supporting Reconstruction” program initiated by the national government for designated municipalities in three prefectures -- Fukushima, Iwate and Miyagi -- hit by 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake to thank and promote exchanges with designated countries and regions that extended help after the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster. The gathering took place on Musashino University’s Ariake campus in Tokyo’s waterfront area.

The summit was hosted by the Secretariat of the Headquarters for the Promotion of the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games in the Cabinet Secretariat. The Iitate school was invited to make a presentation together with junior and senior high schools in Shizukuishi town, Iwate Prefecture, and Kanoya city, Kagoshima Prefecture, all picked as schools proactively practicing host town activities. Kanoya is one of the host towns for pre-Games training by countries and regions participating in the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics. The group of 20 first- and second-grade Iitate junior high students visited the summit venue and seven of them introduced their activities in the form of a conference dubbed “a general assembly of the IOC (Iitate Olympic Committee).”

In their presentation, the students briefed the audience on how the village has been recovering from the disaster and how its exchanges with Laos have developed. They also introduced self-cooked original cuisine combining local food in Laos and Iitate, “colored pencils with packed seeds attached” to be sent to Laos, and a T-shirt using the village’s original flower species “Iitate Olympia” as a design motif, among other activities. The students also unveiled a video produced for Laotian athletes. “I think we have been able to convey the attractiveness of Laos in an ample manner,” said Sana Kanno , a second-year student acting as chair of the committee, expressing her sense of fulfillment.

At the summit, the Iitate students also interacted with those from Tokushima Commercial High School (known as Tokusho for short) in Tokushima city, Tokushima Prefecture, registered as a pre-Olympic training host town for Cambodia. They sought tips for their future activities from initiatives of the Tokusho students, including the production of a video introducing athletes and opening of a “Tokusho department store.” The Iitate students were presented with Cambodia’s traditional clothing known as “kroma” and enjoyed eating a “castella” sponge cake made from palm sugar, a Cambodian local specialty, and other food. “It was informative to have learned that they make arrangement on their own thoughts,” Iitate Junior High School second grader Naito Otani said, impressed by the Tokusho students’ initiatives. Olympics minister Yoshitaka Sakurada also attended the exchange event.

The venue was decorated with posters produced by all 42 Iitate Junior High School students to convey the village’s allures to Laotian athletes, drawing attention of visitors. The posters will be sent to Laos later.

The Iitate students are seeking exchanges with Laos under the slogan of “Know, convey and have people come” as part of a “learn about the hometown” project.

■“Host Town House” eyed in Tokyo

The government’s Headquarters for the Promotion of the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games said on Feb. 23 it is considering operating a “Host Town House” in Tokyo during the 2020 Games together with municipalities across Japan which are set to undertake “host town” projects intended to allow exchanges between athletes from abroad and local residents. The proposed Tokyo house is designed to be a base for introducing the cultures of countries participating in the Games and showcasing exchange activities with local municipalities.

(Translated by Kyodo News)

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