Well-known BBC reporter visits Fukushima to show real picture

Well-known British TV reporter Nick Baker visited Fukushima Prefecture in November to shoot various scenes for a British Broadcasting Corporation program. During his first visit to the prefecture, the 48-year-old journalist tried the local food, experienced the natural habitat and met some of the local people. The public broadcaster will air the program to coincide with the 10th anniversary next year of the Great East Japan Earthquake and the upcoming Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics next summer. Baker toured a variety of places to interview people and collect materials for the program, due to be aired next March. He said he would like to know what is good about Fukushima, adding that he hopes he can visit again. He intends to send out information on Fukushima not only through the program but also by other means. During a visit to a persimmon farm in the Yanagawa district of Date city, where trees were full of fruit, Baker tasted "ampo-gaki" half-dried persimmons, a specialty in the northern region of Fukushima. He expressed surprise at its amazingly juicy, sweet and delicious taste in front of a TV camera. After a local farmer briefed Baker on the process of producing ampo-gaki and on the means of harvesting the "hachiya-gaki" variety of persimmons, he asked a barrage of questions with keen interest, such as why the fruit so sweet. The BBC came up with the program idea to report on Fukushima's food, nature and tourism as well as progress in post-quake reconstruction, commissioning Baker to gather information and make the report. He and his TV crew began videotaping in mid-November, touring Bandai-Asahi National Park by bicycle to capture the beautiful autumnal foliage and other landscapes. He also took a bath at the Dake Onsen hot springs resort in Nihonmatsu city. At Aquamarine Fukushima in Iwaki city, he listened to explanations about the damage caused by the quake and ensuing tsunami as well as the subsequent recovery and reopening of the aquarium. The TV team also reported on a sake (rice wine) brewery struck by the disaster in the town of Namie. During his stay in Fukushima, Baker became fond of the local cuisine, landscapes and personalities of the local residents. Recalling the journey, he said people were gentle and gave his crew a hearty welcome. Looking forward to visiting Fukushima once again, Baker said he has become a great lover of Fukushima and noted he wants to come next time to enjoy the snow in winter and view the cherry blossoms in spring. As he came in touch with various aspects of Fukushima, he realized many Britons know nothing about the region. In Britain, there are occasional news reports related to the 2011 nuclear accident at Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc.’s Fukushima Daiichi plant, but they are becoming rarer, according to Baker. He feels increasingly inspired to pass on what he has seen and heard to people in Britain and elsewhere in the belief that it is his mission to inform the world of the true picture of Fukushima. ■Encouraging support, mounting hopes Baker also produces globally aired programs such as the "Discovery" and "National Geographic" channels and is a well-known face to British people. Given his assured messaging capability, expectations are growing in Fukushima on him becoming a reassuring supporter of the prefecture. "As I hear he is a famous person, I would like him to help us," said ampo-gaki farmer Satoshi Shishido, 68. "This is a good opportunity for many people to know about Fukushima." Shipments of ampo-gaki were suspended for two years following the nuclear mishap. Shipment volume has recovered to about 80% of pre-disaster levels, but exports have yet to be resumed aside from experimental shipments to some markets, including the Middle East. Fukushima farmers hope the BBC program will "open up an opportunity for recovering channels of overseas sales," said Shishido. ■The program to be aired by CS channel, internet The BBC program is scheduled to be broadcast in March 2021 in two 30-minute episodes on the BBC World News channel. The news program is watched by a total of some 450 million households in more than 200 countries and regions. In Japan, it is available on communication satellite and streaming video channels, among other means. Photo: BBC’s Nick Baker (extreme left) is seen reporting on ampo-gaki at a persimmon orchard in Date city, Fukushima Prefecture. He is expected to send out information on the allures of Fukushima's food and nature, among other things. (Translated by Kyodo News)