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Over 100,000 enter Oze park from Fukushima in 2014, near pre-disaster level

17 January 2015

A total of 101,600 people entered Oze National Park, which straddles four prefectures, from trailheads in Fukushima Prefecture in 2014, up 5,700 from the year before. The figure was the largest since the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and the ensuing nuclear disaster at Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s Fukushima Daiichi atomic power plant. The 2014 number represented 93% of the pre-disaster level of 109,400 in 2010, showing a steady recovery trend, according to statistics announced by the Environment Ministry on Jan. 16.

Among the mountain trails whose starting points are located in Fukushima Prefecture, the Numayama trailhead was the most popular last year, with 71,500 people starting their journey from there to the park featuring widespread wetlands, an increase of 6,500 from the previous year. The number of people who entered from the Takizawa trailhead that leads to Mt. Aizu-Komagatake grew by 1,600 to 9,900. But the number of people who crossed the Miike point in 2014 was down 1,000 to 14,400, the Sarukura trailhead saw a drop of 500 to 3,500 and the Umasaka point was down 900 to 2,300.

Visits last year by tourists to the park that straddles Fukushima, Gunma, Niigata and Tochigi prefectures were concentrated in June and July, and tourism officials of Hinoemata village said many people came out to see plants such as hare's-tail cotton grass as 2014 was a good year for the species in the park.

(Translated by Kyodo News)

16 January 2015

J-Village eyed as Japan soccer team's training camp site for 2020 Olympics

Japan Football Association President Kuniya Daini said on Jan. 14 that he intends to use J-Village, currently operating as the headquarters for dealing with the nuclear accident at Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, as the Japanese national soccer team's training camp site for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

Daini visited the Fukushima prefectural government office to pay a call on Gov. Masao Uchibori for New Year greetings. During their informal talks, Daini said the JFA has decided to use J-Village as a training base for the 2020 Summer Games and asked for prompt restoration of the facility to be ready for use by then. Uchibori responded that he hopes to restore the facility, straddling Naraha and Hirono towns, before the Tokyo Olympics and also requested cooperation from the JFA in realizing the plan to use the facility as the national team's camp site.

After the talks, Daini said no specific decisions have been reached as to whether J-Village will actually be used as a training base for the Japanese team, but noted that it is "conceivable for it to be used as a camp site for foreign teams as well."

(Translated by Kyodo News)

14 January 2015

Futaba town to accept construction of temporary nuke waste storage facility

Shiro Izawa, mayor of Futaba in Fukushima Prefecture, has indicated that the town will accept the construction of a planned temporary storage facility for radioactive waste associated with the accident at Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. Izawa made remarks to that effect on Jan. 13 at a town assembly meeting, and the assembly gave its consent. The town of Okuma, which is also envisioned to host the facility along with Futaba, approved the construction plan in December last year.

"We received consent from the assembly and have come to the conclusion that it is inevitable to accept the construction," Izawa told reporters after the meeting of all assembly members held at the town's temporary office in Iwaki city.

The mayor also expressed his intention to offer residents consultative services involving experts such as lawyers and real estate professionals to prevent landowners of the planned construction site from having to accept disadvantageous conditions in negotiations with the central government.

"The prefecture's recovery is not possible unless we accept (the temporary storage facility)," Seiichi Sasaki, chairman of the town assembly, told reporters. "As an assembly member, it is painful to let go of our hometown, but we have come to a point where we must make the decision."

(Translated by Kyodo News)

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