J-Village seen fully reopening April 20, natural turf restoration nears completion

19 January 2019

Coordination is under way to fully reopen the J-Village sports complex on April 20, officials concerned said on Jan. 18. It was partially reopened last July after being closed since the Great East Japan Earthquake and ensuing nuclear accident at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima Daiichi plant, in 2011. Also planned are commemorative events to mark the reopening J-Village is one of Japan’s largest soccer complexes straddling the Fukushima Prefecture towns of Naraha and Hirono. Organizers hope to attract 10,000 people on the day by encouraging them to use the new J-Village Station, being built on the East Japan Railway Co. (JR East) Joban Line, and to partake in a range of activities, to celebrate the full resumption of the complex, symbolizing Fukushima’s recovery from the 2011 disaster.

After its use as a forward base to battle the nuclear accident, restoration work -- including turf replacement -- began in April 2017. On July 28 last year, 80% of J-Village facilities reopened, including a 5,000-capacity stadium, new accommodation, and pitches combining natural and artificial turf. On Sept. 8 last year, other facilities became available for use, such as an all-weather practice field. Work to restore the remaining two natural grass-covered pitches is to be completed by April for the complex’s full reopening.

Details of commemorative events will be fixed by an executive committee to be organized by the prefectural government and other relevant parties. Organizers are planning such events as ceremonies and stage performances in a bid to send out a positive message in and outside Fukushima about the prefecture’s ongoing post-disaster reconstruction. They also want to hold events featuring hands-on experience in soccer and other events for children and their parents. Prefectural specialties will also be on sale, such as those from the Futaba coastal region, to publicize Fukushima's attractions to visitors.

The new station being constructed by JR East is expected to open at the same time as J-Village becomes fully operational. Event organizers intend to call on visitors to use the Joban Line.

The prefectural government and organizations concerned intend to further promote the use of J-Village by professional sport athletes as a practice hub, and for the nurturing of young athletes following its full reopening. It is expected to be used as a camp for the Argentina team at this year's Rugby World Cup, which kicks off in Japan in September, and as a training base for Japan's men’s and women’s soccer teams ahead of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. The complex was used for training by Shoshi High School in Koriyama city before the 97th All Japan High School Soccer Tournament, in which the Fukushima Prefecture team placed third for the second time in seven years.

One challenge that remains is to promote the use of J-Village for non-sporting purposes. A panel set up by the prefectural government, J-Village, local municipalities, JR East, the Japan Football Association and other relevant parties is looking into the use of the facility for concerts and regional exchange programs, among other ideas. The group is set to seek the establishment of a framework for increasing the range of J-Village users on the basis of panel discussions.

(Translated by Kyodo News)