Greek olive tree seeds presented to Naraha, set for flight to space before planting

Greek Ambassador Cakioussis (2nd from left) presents Naraha Mayor Matsumoto (3rd from right) with olive tree seeds native to Greece. Looking on are (from right) One Earth Representative Director Hasegawa and State Minister for Reconstruction Yokoyama. On extreme left is One Earth Adviser Jinno.

The Fukushima Prefecture town of Naraha was presented by Greece with olive tree seeds at a ceremony in Tokyo on Nov. 2 under a plan to keep them on the International Space Station temporarily before they are planted next year ahead of the Tokyo Summer Olympics and Paralympics. Naraha promotes exchange programs with Greece as one of the "Host Towns" designated under the central government's "Thank You for Reconstruction Help" initiative for three Tohoku northeastern Japan prefectures -- Fukushima, Miyagi and Iwate -- hard hit by the 2001 earthquake and tsunami. Host towns are linked to Tokyo Games-participating foreign countries or regions to extend gratitude for their aid after the disaster, show progress in post-disaster recovery and promote bilateral exchanges. Naraha, which has the J-Village national soccer training complex from where next year's Olympic torch relay will kick off, is scheduled to have the olive tree seeds from the birthplace of the Olympics sent to the ISS next May. Upon returning to Earth, the seeds will be planted in J-Village and elsewhere along the torch relay route as well as in Greece as a symbol of Olympics-forged friendship and peace to be passed down to later generations. The presentation ceremony was held at the Greek Embassy in Tokyo attended by Ambassador Constantin Cakioussis. The envoy told the gathering that olive trees have symbolized victory and peace since the days of ancient Greece and that the country is presenting the seeds as a testament to the victory of Naraha having overcome the adversity of the quake and ensuing nuclear accident at Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc.'s Fukushima Daiichi plant. He then handed over the seeds native to Greece to Nahara Mayor Yukiei Matsumoto . The mayor said elementary and junior high school students in his town have been learning Greek history and culture since it was designated as a host town in September. "We would like to invite Greek people living in Japan to Naraha for an exchange event and to set up an opportunity for children in the town to study in Greece," Matsumoto added, expressing readiness for further bilateral exchanges. The planned launch of the seeds to space is to be realized as part of the "Tohoku Reconstruction Space Mission" project being organized by the One Earth Foundation in Ibaraki Prefecture neighboring Fukushima. The project aims to send out information globally from the ISS, on the landmark 10th anniversary of the disaster on March 11, 2021, about the status of recovery as well as messages of gratitude for help, including those collected from 42 municipalities in the three affected prefectures. The olive tree seeds will be kept for about a month on the ISS in the Japanese Experimental Module "Kibo" (hope) before returning to Naraha sometime next July. The town is considering planting them within next year and having them grown in Greece as well. The presentation ceremony was also joined by State Minister for Reconstruction Shinichi Yokoyama, and two officials from One Earth, Representative Director Yoichi Hasegawa and Adviser Genjiro Jinno. (Translated by Kyodo News)