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)