Fukushima’s future “talked about” at workshop with Britain’s UCL delegation

19 January 2018

A delegation from University College London (UCL) in Britain held a workshop and exchange session with university and high school students and other people in Fukushima Prefecture at Hotel Tatsumiya in Fukushima city on Jan. 18.

The 11-member delegation included undergraduates, postgraduates, students of the UCL Academy, which is a high school attached to the university, and UCL faculty, including Professor Shinichi Onuma, a Fukushima city native and graduate from Fukushima High School and Tohoku University. Staying in the prefecture since Jan. 15, they visited some municipalities hit by the 2011 earthquake, ensuing tsunami and nuclear accident, such as Iwaki city and the towns of Namie and Naraha, touring them for a first-hand look at how they have recovered from the disaster.

The gathering's Japanese participants included Fukushima University and Fukushima High School students and prefectural government officials. Divided into several groups, they had lively discussions under the common theme of “What I felt on a visit to Fukushima Prefecture ~ toward Fukushima’s reconstruction and future.” Julie-Maria Nneamaka Chisom Kachi-Agwu, an 18-year-old UCL Academy student, said she had learned during the visit that there are many more houses and people there than she had thought.

UCL student Conner Alexander Galbraith, 22, said he was able to realize that food in Fukushima is safe, adding that he would like to help dispel false rumors upon returning to London.

Japanese postgraduate Aina Urano, 23, said tourism is important to counter unfounded rumors. “The culture in the Aizu region is amazing, and I think it will probably be effective to publicize it at home and abroad.”

UCL postgraduate Justin Usile Uyimleshi, 34, said that the scale of damage at the time of the earthquake was more than expected but that he was impressed with reconstruction efforts by residents.

A welcome reception was held after the workshop. Taisuke Sakurai, director of the prefectural government’s Planning and Coordination Department, delivered a welcome speech, followed by a congratulatory message by Masayuki Takahashi, president of Fukushima-Minpo Co., publisher of the namesake local daily. “Your visit was short this time, but your experience here would serve as energy for Fukushima’s reconstruction,” Takahashi said. Yoshiyuki Takamatsu, mayor of Motomiya city where a British-style garden has opened, proposed toasts, and participants had amicable chats while enjoying dishes made from Fukushima food ingredients.

“I had my own opinion about harmful rumors, but I’ve found something new after listening to the views expressed by people from abroad,” said Fukushima High School junior Keika Kobiyama, 17, who was among the participants in the exchange session. Joan Ito, a 20-year-old third grader majoring in economics and business administration at Fukushima University, said, “I think the visiting UCL people have felt the attractiveness of Fukushima. Harmful rumors cannot be dissipated in a short space of time, but I’ve confirmed the importance of continuing to make such steady efforts (as mentioned by other people).”

The prefectural government and UCL earlier exchanged a memorandum of understanding calling for cooperation on exchanges and human resource development. As part of the pact, the prefectural government invited the UCL delegation for the purpose of encouraging the visitors to transmit information on the status of Fukushima’s post-disaster recovery and its attractions across Britain.

A UCL student (second from right) speaks about what he felt on a visit to Fukushima Prefecture.

(Translated by Kyodo News)