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Thursday, July 28, 2011

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Building on a dream: Masaharu Takagi points at the planned fireworks launchpad on the debris-filled beach of Hisanohama in Fukushima Prefecture on July 10. Stages for performers will also be built there for the event scheduled for Aug. 27. MINORU MATSUTANI

Fukushima towns won't let summer go by without a bang


Staff writer

To boost the spirits of locals in a tsunami-hit area of Fukushima Prefecture, a group of volunteers led by a Shinto priest is planning to hold a fireworks event Aug. 27 in the city of Iwaki's Hisanohama beach — just about 30 km from Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s radiation-spewing nuclear plant.

Coastal municipalities in Fukushima are canceling or scaling back annual fireworks shows, focusing on commemorating the dead. However, Hisanohama locals and volunteers hope to put the town on the path to revitalization by scheduling the event, which includes fireworks, live concerts and comic performances, said Masaharu Takagi, the son of Suwa Shrine's chief priest.

"People may think this town is unsafe because it's too close to the (Fukushima No. 1) nuclear plant. But we want to show to the public Hisanohama is not only safe but also an energetic town," Takagi said, adding that his group is now in negotiations with musicians and comedians.

The city of Iwaki, the village of Iitate and the town of Ishikawa will also sponsor the event, Shinichi Motoyanagi, also a member of the group, said, adding the group is still in talks with various companies and organizations about additional sponsorship.

Takagi said he understands the importance of allocating money and human resources to disaster reconstruction work.

"But keeping the spirit up is equally very important," he said.

Hisanohama is a stretch of beach between 27-32 km from the Fukushima No. 1 plant. Its residents were ordered by the government to evacuate but were allowed back in late April after the order was lifted.

As per the central government's instructions, residents living between 20-30 km must be prepared to leave the area quickly in the event the government issues another evacuation order if the nuclear crisis worsens.

Several Hisanohama locals, including Takagi, began talking about holding a fireworks event in April, Motoyanagi said. As the group grew, with volunteer workers from other parts of the prefecture and Tokyo joining, it acquired permission from local authorities in late June to hold the event on Aug. 27, said Motoyanagi, who hails from the Fukushima city of Shirakawa.

The group will have to clear debris from a vast tsunami-racked area so they can build a stage and places for people to sit — a task that some consider overly ambitious.

"People tell us we are crazy because they normally start planning six months in advance," Takagi said. "But we are committed to doing it."

For those interested in volunteering to clean the fireworks venue, visit the "Fukushima Kizuna Project" Facebook fan page. A bus from Tokyo will carry volunteers to do the cleaning on weekends in August.


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