11 Juin 2018
June 10, 2018
Imperial couple pass evacuation zone 5.8 km from Fukushima plant
THE ASAHI SHIMBUN
FUKUSHIMA--Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko passed through a “difficult-to-return zone” near the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant on June 10 on their last visit to the disaster area before abdication.
The car carrying the imperial couple was running on an expressway from Iwaki to Minami-Soma in Fukushima Prefecture when it slowed down at a point 5.8 kilometers from the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, according to the chamberlain of the Imperial Household Agency.
An Imperial Guard official accompanying the couple explained the location of the plant, operated by Tokyo Electric Power Co.
Although the nuclear plant could not be seen through the rainy weather, Akihito and Michiko looked toward its direction without saying a word.
After leaving the expressway, the car ran on National Road No. 6, which is lined on both sides with bags filled with radioactive soil and debris. The couple apparently saw them from inside the vehicle.
The emperor and empress attended a national tree-planting festival held in the prefecture on that day.
On the night of June 9, the couple watched hula girls’ dances at the Spa Resort Hawaiians in Iwaki where they stayed.
The resort was shut down because of damage from the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami that struck on March 11, 2011.
The hula girls lost their place to dance, but they toured Japan and became a symbol of reconstruction from the disaster.
Rie Igari, who had led the dancing team for four years, served as a guide for the imperial couple.
With Akihito and Michiko frequently clapping, the hula girls performed dances to three songs, including “Hana wa Saku” (Flowers bloom), a song designed to support rebuilding efforts.
“The emperor and the empress repeatedly visited Fukushima (Prefecture) after the disaster, and their visits promoted reconstruction,” said Haruna Suzuki, captain of the dance team.
“Without ever forgetting our feelings of gratitude, we will continue to work to help reconstruction.”
June 9, 2018
Imperial couple speak with Fukushima evacuees
The Imperial couple began a 3-day visit to Fukushima Prefecture on Saturday and met evacuees from towns near the damaged nuclear plant.
Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko arrived at the Kitayoshima public housing complex in Iwaki City at around 3pm. The complex is one of the largest in the prefecture to house evacuees.
This is the couple's 6th visit to Fukushima since the 2011 disaster, and the first since March 2016.
About 440 evacuees from the towns of Tomioka, Okuma, Futaba and Namie are living in the complex. The couple waved to the many people who came to greet them.
The couple then spoke with representatives of the evacuees in a meeting room.
68-year-old Shigeko Sasaki said she wants to work to preserve the traditional dance of her home town.
The tsunami washed away dance costumes that were kept at a local shrine.
The Emperor said that an activity like that can help strengthen bonds between people.
The couple listened for more than 20 minutes to stories about the challenges the evacuees faced, and details of how they are living now.
The Emperor said he hopes they will overcome their difficulties and build good lives in good health.
The couple will be in Fukushima for 3 days. They are scheduled to attend a tree-planting ceremony in Minamisoma City on Sunday.
This is expected to be the last time the couple visits the disaster-hit Tohoku region before Emperor Akihito abdicates next April.
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