Monday, January 9, 2017

Stricken village holds 1st event for 'new' adults since disaster

Young people in colorful kimono and other attire pose for a commemorative photo after being reunited with an elementary school teacher during Coming-of-Age Day event on Jan. 8 in Iitate, Fukushima Prefecture. (Yosuke Fukudome)
IITATE, Fukushima Prefecture--Young people dressed to the nines to celebrate Coming-of-Age Day on Jan. 8, the first time the ceremony has been held here since the Fukushima nuclear accident in 2011.
For many, the public holiday was an opportunity to reunite with old friends also reaching the age of majority, 20 years old, during the year ending in March.
Iitate remains one of the most heavily contaminated areas where evacuation orders still remain in effect because of the triple meltdown at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant triggered by the earthquake and tsunami disaster.
Despite the catastrophe, the village went ahead with the ceremony in light of the government's decision to lift the evacuation orders in the most of the village at the end of March.
“With its abundant nature, Iitate is our home and where our lives are rooted,” said Keita Matsushita, a sophomore at the Miyagi University of Education in Sendai, during his speech at the ceremony he delivered on behalf of 61 “shin-seijin,” literally new adults.
“I am grateful for those who are committing themselves to the rebuilding of Iitate,” he said.
Matsushita, who was a second-year junior high school student when the 2011 disaster struck, expressed delight at running in to old friends again and catching up on their lives.
He also expressed concern about the future of the village.
“I am not sure whether the dose of radiation in the village is at a safe limit yet,” Matsushita said.
“The infrastructure has not been rebuilt yet, so I won't be going back.”
Thirty-nine municipalities in Fukushima Prefecture held Coming-of-Age Day ceremonies.
For areas where evacuation orders still remain in effect--Okuma, Namie, Tomioka—the ceremonies were held outside the towns.
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