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Former Fukushima teacher blogs to inspire students while fighting off cancer

19 October 2014

【Translated by The JapanTimes】The former vice principal of a junior high school in Fukushima Prefecture has been encouraging his former students by blogging while undergoing 11 years of treatment for cancer.

Yuki Sanbonsugi, 55, who fled to Koriyama after his hometown, Futaba, was evacuated to escape the radiation from the core meltdowns at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant, became a junior high school teacher in 1981, after graduating from Senshu University.

He has taught classes in Iitate, Iwaki, Minamisoma, Katsurao, Namie and Tomioka — villages, towns and cities all close to the No. 1 power plant.

Eleven years ago, when he was vice principal of Tomioka Dai-ichi Junior High School, he was diagnosed with malignant lymphoma, a form of blood cancer, and decided to quit to concentrate on treatment.

Although he could not return to teaching, he gave lectures at schools and community centers to convey his thoughts on the importance of life.

In March 2011, the nuclear crisis forced Sanbonsugi to flee to several places in the prefecture, including the town of Furudono and the cities of Aizuwakamatsu and Koriyama, and even to Hokkaido.

Despite his hardships, he kept thinking about all the students he had taught. He was worried they might be in the throes of despair with their futures still unclear 3½ years into the nuclear crisis, or on the verge of giving up on returning to their hometowns.

“I want to support former students who are living as evacuees as much as I can,” said Sanbonsugi, who avidly updates his blog.

“Rather than grieving over what you cannot do, just simply do something you can do. Then, quietly wait for spring to come,” he recently wrote.

Hidefumi Sanpei, 35, one of his former students, works for the Tomioka Municipal Government, which ordered a full evacuation in light of the Fukushima No. 1 meltdowns. As an official in charge of residential support, he helps evacuees deal with their worries and sometimes gets a tongue-lashing in the process.

As an evacuee himself supporting a wife and two children in new surroundings, Sanpei often got fed up with the work and his longing for his hometown.

He said Sanbonsugi’s blog gives him the courage to move forward. One phrase he always keeps in mind is: “Under the same sky, each one of us is living life to the fullest.”

Natsumi Yoshida, 33, who was one of Sanbonsugi’s students at Katsurao Junior High School, now teaches at a special needs school attached to Fukushima University. When the village of Katsurao was forced to evacuate, her former classmates were scattered all over the country.

Yoshida said she hopes to convey to her students a message she read in Sanbonsugi’s blog: “Planting seeds of kindness on the hearts of each and every one of us.”

10 October 2014

Campaigning begins for 1st post-disaster Fukushima gubernatorial election

Campaigning kicked off on Oct. 9 for the 20th gubernatorial election in Fukushima Prefecture. The 17-day race will involve a record-high six candidates, one more than in the previous election in 2006. All of them are running on an independent ticket.

The election is the first to be called in the prefecture since the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake, tsunami and reactor meltdowns at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station of Tokyo Electric Power Co. It is a key race to elect a new leader tasked with Fukushima’s post-disaster reconstruction. Voting day is set for Oct. 26.

Running in the election are Vice Gov. Masao Uchibori, 50, supported by five national political parties, including the ruling Liberal Democratic and Komeito parties as well as the main opposition Democratic Party of Japan; Katsutaka Idogawa, 68, a former mayor of Futaba town; Yoshitaka Ikarashi, 36, a pastor; Yoshihiro Kumasaka, 62, a former mayor of Miyako city in Iwate Prefecture and supported by the Japanese Communist Party and New Renaissance Party; Akiko Iseki, 59, a convenience store manager; and Yoshinao Kaneko, 58, a company board member.

Incumbent Gov. Yuhei Sato, who has led the prefecture in responding to the triple disaster for about three years and seven months, announced in September that he will not seek a third four-year term in office. His successor will face a mountain of challenging work focused on the rebirth of Fukushima.

(Translated by Kyodo News)

12 October 2014

“Cycle Aid Japan 2014” held in Koriyama, vicinity to support Fukushima’s rebirth

An annual “Cycle Aid Japan” campaign for 2014 was held on Oct. 11 in Fukushima Prefecture this year to support the region’s reconstruction from the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake, tsunami and nuclear accident at the Fukushima Daiichi plant of Tokyo Electric Power Co.

About 1,000 participants in the “Cycle Aid Japan 2014 in Koriyama -- Tour de Lake Inawashiro” cycled on three courses from and to Koriyama Yurax Atami, a multipurpose establishment with a hot spring in Koriyama city. The courses – of 30, 50 and 90 kilometers – stretched from Koriyama to Aizuwakamatsu via Lake Inawashiro. The cyclists donated 10 yen for every kilometer cycled to the prefectural government and other quarters concerned in support of post-disaster reconstruction.

The “Cycle Aid Japan” event began in 2012 to help encourage people in Fukushima, Miyagi and Iwate prefectures devastated by the triple disaster. It was held in the three prefectures last year. This year’s event was focused on Fukushima, which is still suffering the aftereffects of the nuclear accident.

The 2014 event was organized by an executive committee comprising the Koriyama city office, the Bicycle Association of Japan, the Fukushima Prefecture Cycling Association, Fukushima-Minpo Co. and other parties. It was supported by the Fukushima prefectural government, a group of parliamentarians promoting the use of bicycles, the Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry, and the Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Ministry, among other parties.

(Translated by Kyodo News)

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