Head of Fukushima-tied group in London fetes 50 years of stay in Britain

Photo: Yoshio Mitsuyama and his wife Hisako smile as they pose for a commemorative shot surrounded by well-wishers.

A commemorative party was held in London on Oct. 20 in honor of Yoshio Mitsuyama, president of the Fukushima Prefectural Association in London (popularly known as London Shakunage Kai, which literally means "alpine rose society"), who celebrates the 50th anniversary of his stay in Britain this year. Mitsuyama, 74, a native of Shirakawa city's Taishin district, said he has been able to stay this long "thanks to all of you and many other people" as he recalled his half a century of life there that has been dedicated to business, international exchanges and contributions to the home prefecture's post-disaster reconstruction. The party at the prestigious, members-only "Royal Automobile Club" was attended by 86 people, including club members, friends and acquaintances -- all clad in elegant dress or dinner suits. Following a congratulatory speech given by Keisaku Sano, adviser to the Japan Association in the UK, messages from Kei Uruma, president of Mitsubishi Electric Corp., and two former ambassadors to Britain, Keiichi Hayashi and Koji Tsuruoka, were read. The participants then made a toast with "sake" rice wine from Yamatogawa Shuzoten Ltd., a brewery in the Fukushima Prefecture city of Kitakata. The party venue was graced with a roly-poly “Shirakawa Daruma” doll decorated with a Union Jack pattern that was presented by Gigyo Takamatsu, mayor of Motomiya, a Fukushima Prefecture city that hosts a British garden. Warming up the party were two performers, with Joji Hirota playing a "wadaiko" Japanese drum and popular "enka" ballad singer Akari Mochizuki, who belted out the famous "Aizu Bandaisan" folk song of Fukushima. Their performances added to the celebratory atmosphere for Mitsuyama as well as his wife Hisako. In his speech, Mitsuyama looked back over his life. He went to Britain alone in 1971 and started to make a living there as a washer-up and pizza cook. Then he worked at a souvenir shop, where he earned a good reputation for his job performance. He later set up his own business, establishing a company trading in duty-free items and expanding to run many shops in Europe. He has also extended support to Japanese students coming to Britain and elsewhere. Mitsuyama played a role in the inauguration of London Shakunage Kai in 1993, assuming its presidency. He also serves as head of World Fukushima Kenjinkai (prefectural people's associations), working for stronger bonds between people. He was awarded the Ambassador’s Commendation in 2015 by Japan’s then envoy to Britain, and decorated with the Order of the Rising Sun, Silver Rays, by the Japanese government last spring. (Translated by Kyodo News)