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information about Fukushima published in English in Japanese media info publiée en anglais dans la presse japonaise

In sympathy with Fukushima people

January 7, 2016


NUCLEAR CONNECTION: Nagasaki festival to feature float using wood from Fukushima




NAGASAKI--To offer encouragement to a Fukushima community displaced by the nuclear crisis, the famed Nagasaki Kunchi autumn festival here will use wood from the hard-hit Kawauchi village for its “kokkodesho” drum float.

A group of Nagasaki residents are currently working to manufacture the symbolic drum float with hinoki cypress logs and boards from Kawauchi, so that it can debut in the festival parade in 2018.

Keizo Imura, a 69-year-old retired firefighter in Nagasaki, came up with the idea of using logs from the village, part of which was designated as a mandatory evacuation zone in the wake of the accident at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant in 2011.

Following the triple meltdown at the plant, triggered by the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami on March 11, 2011, the village’s population has halved to about 1,600 people today.

“We earnestly hope that the village will recover from the disaster to allow many residents to return home when this float is donated for the festival (in 2018),” Imura said.

During the Nagasaki Kunchi festival, local communities in Nagasaki city take turns in hosting the dedicative performance at Suwajinja shrine each year. In the climax, about 40 men hoist and toss up and down the kokkodesho float, which is heavy as one ton.

After the nuclear disaster unfurled, forcing Fukushima residents to evacuate, Imura felt special sympathy for the displaced people, in part, because his parents and four siblings all suffered from the U.S. atomic bombing of Nagasaki in 1945.

“Through my work, I have dealt with natural disasters and people’s deaths, and I have also had a grave concern over the nuclear accident in Fukushima because of my family’s experience of nuclear warfare,” he said.

Hearing Imura’s proposal to use logs and wooden boards from Kawauchi in the drum float, Akira Ura, the 76-year-old chief of the Kabashima neighborhood community association, immediately gave the green light because reaching out to the devastated community fits the festival’s traditional theme.

“The Kunchi festival originated from people’s respect for nature, and its purpose is to encourage people,” Ura said. “It is our pleasure to support Fukushima communities.”

After Imura contacted the Kawauchi village government, Taizo Shiga, a 67-year-old forestry company operator, came forward to offer hinoki cypress logs and boards for the float for free of charge. Before being shipped to Nagasaki, the logs passed radioactivity measurement tests.

“Ungrounded vicious rumors on safety issues have prevented our products from fetching decent prices at markets, and we can no longer run our business like we used to,” Shiga said.

“We have been saddened by the current situation, but it is certainly encouraging to hear that our products will be used in the valiant festival.”

Imura said he plans to invite residents from Kawauchi to attend the Nagasaki when the new float debuts in the 2018 festival.


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