Disaster memorial hall opens in Futaba

The Fukushima prefectural government opened the “Great East Japan Earthquake and Nuclear Disaster Memorial Museum” in the town of Futaba on Sept. 21. The facility, located in the town’s Nakano district, marks the full-fledged start of a project to pass down to future generations the lessons of the 2011 quake, tsunami and nuclear accident at Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc.’s Fukushima Daiichi plant. The museum was launched ahead of the landmark 10th anniversary next year of the unprecedented complex disaster as an archive base collecting records and memories. Prefectural officials see as challenging tasks going forward how to partner with other similar facilities in and outside the prefecture and beef up preparedness for accepting visitors on school excursions to affected areas, among other duties. At the museum, about 170 items out of some 240,000 kept and collected by the prefectural government are on display in six separate areas, ranging from the history of how the nuclear plant came to the prefecture and scenes of people's lives before the quake to the outbreak of the multiple disaster, prolonged evacuations, and the process toward reconstruction. The museum is mapping out an itinerary that will lead visitors to other facilities in the prefecture, including the utility’s TEPCO Decommissioning Archive Center in Tomioka town, Iwaki 3.11 Memorial and Revitalisation Museum in Iwaki city, the Densho Chinkon Kinenkan memorial hall in Soma city, and archives planned in the towns of Tomioka and Okuma. The Fukushima government is considering holding joint exhibitions with similar museums in Iwate and Miyagi prefectures, both hit hard by the quake and tsunami, to display each other’s disaster-related materials. Access to the new museum from stations on the Japan Railways (JR) Joban Line is still difficult due to the presence of hot spots where radiation dosage remains high. As an alternative, the prefecture is set to operate a shuttle bus service, beginning in time for the opening on Oct. 1 of a new facility, the Futaba Business Incubation and Community Center, adjacent to the museum. The bus service will link the center and museum by way of a JR station. The museum is seeking to attract about 50,000 visitors a year. Following the nationwide spread of the new coronavirus epidemic, the prefecture’s education board served notice to prefectural schools and municipal education boards early in September, urging them to consider organizing excursions within Fukushima. The notice called for inclusion of the museum in a list of places to be visited, suggesting the use of a travel course containing elements of the prefecture's "Hope Tourism" campaign designed to allow visitors to witness post-disaster recovery in Fukushima. On the opening day, about 1,500 people visited the museum from within and outside Fukushima. In partnership with the Fukushima Prefecture Tourism and Local Products Association, the museum began accepting visitors on school trips from outside the prefecture in full swing. A group of some 30 students from Tateyama Sogo High School in Tateyama city, Chiba Prefecture, visited the facility on the association’s advice, becoming the first visitors on educational trips to the museum. Ruru Aoki, 16, a second-year student of the school, said she was surprised at an exhibit showing the height of 13 meters reached by tsunami during the disaster. Her school is located about 1.5 kilometers from the sea. “I would like to properly tell my family and friends what I learned today,” Aoki said. “We will aggressively publicize how prefectural people coped with the complex disaster,” said Noboru Takamura, 52, director of the museum. “As a base for domestic and overseas exchanges of knowledge, we would like to contribute to increasing the number of people exchanges in the Hamadori coastal region,” he added. The three-story museum has a total floor space of 5,256 square meters. The total cost of the project is about 5.3 billion yen ($50 million). Photo: Visitors view exhibits showing situations immediately after the nuclear accident and other displays on the morning of Oct. 20 (Translated by Kyodo News)