Pop group TOKIO sets out on new project in Fukushima village

TOKIO Co., a company set up by the eponymous male pop group, has unveiled a new project aiming to transform ideas collected from across the country into activities based in a Fukushima Prefecture village. An application will be published shortly as the company is moving ahead with plans to make people's thoughts take shape. The project is dubbed "TOKIO-BA" -- a combination of the group's name and a Japanese word meaning a place that in its conjunction means "TOKIO's place" of activities. The project involves a vast tract of land totaling about 80,000 square meters in the village of Nishigo, which is envisioned as a base of activities that would make Fukushima better known. TOKIO's members have interacted with prefectural people through popular TV programs since before the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and ensuing nuclear accident at Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc.'s Fukushima Daiichi plant, while getting familiar with local nature. They have decided to launch the new project in the hope that it will encourage many children to have a hands-on experience with nature and provide them with opportunities to visit Fukushima Prefecture. Nishigo, a southern gateway to the prefecture, serves as the base of such activities. TOKIO-BA is a joint venture between TOKIO Co. and "b plus b," a company engaged mainly in the running of camping sites. TOKIO member Taichi Kokubun, who is known for his keen interest in outdoor activities, has been chosen as TOKIO-BA president and will propel the new project together with the other two members of the trio -- Shigeru Joshima and Masahiro Matsuoka. Land in Nishigo has already been acquired by TOKIO-BA and is equivalent to about 1.7 times the acreage of the Tokyo Dome baseball stadium. It has both flat and sloping areas as well as forests. It is currently off-limits except for the parties concerned but will be opened to the public and used for various events in the future. The Fukushima prefectural government, which has a "TOKIO section" in place for liaison with TOKIO Co., will cooperate on the project. (Translated by Kyodo News)