J-Village marks 25th anniversary, hopes raised anew for local development

Photo: Tsuneyasu Miyamoto speaks of his continued commitment to Fukushima's post-disaster reconstruction.

The J-Village national soccer training center marked the 25th anniversary of its opening on Jan. 25 with a gathering of about 100 people who showed appreciation for the role of the sports complex straddling the Fukushima Prefecture towns of Naraha and Hirono. The participants hoped J-Village will continue to promote efforts for local development and foster younger generations, as a symbol of reconstruction from the Great East Japan Earthquake and ensuing nuclear disaster at Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc.'s Fukushima Daiichi plant. Former Japan player Miyamoto delivers speech, talks with Iwaki FC president Representatives of municipalities and businesses concerned with the facility were among the participants at the commemorative event, where former national team defender Tsuneyasu Miyamoto delivered a speech titled "The past, present and future of Japanese soccer as seen from J-Village." Miyamoto, a member of the J-Village Inc. board of directors, will assume the post of general secretary of the Japan Football Association (JFA) in February. Miyamoto looked back at the history of Japanese soccer, the country's professional J-League and J-Village along with his own experiences in the sport. In reference to the "DREAM Fukushima action plan," a project promoted by the JFA in support of the prefecture's post-disaster reconstruction efforts, Miyamoto stressed that J-Village "will remain a symbol of Fukushima in the future" as he promised his continued commitment to the region. Miyamoto also had a talk with Satoshi Okura, president of Iwaki Sports Club Co., the operator of J-League second-division side Iwaki FC, which is based in the namesake city and surrounding coastal municipalities. The prefecture's Hamadori coastal area has been named the permanent venue for the national inter-high school men's soccer competition beginning in 2024, with J-Village hosting the bulk of its matches, in a shift from the current system of holding the annual tournament in various areas across the country. With that change in mind, Miyamoto said he "will lend a hand in making it a place that children who will lead (Japan's) soccer in the future want to play in." Okura briefed him on the activities of Iwaki FC that was founded as an amateur club a year after the 2011 disaster and has grown in step with the reconstruction of Fukushima. Okura is aiming high following the club's promotion to J2 after securing the J3 title last season in its first year in the J-League. "We will be taking on challenges so as to be a beacon of hope for the (Hamadori) coast." Koichi Yoshimi, president of Fukushima-Minpo Co., attended the gathering as representative of the publisher of the namesake local daily. J-Village opened in 1997 as Japan's first national training center for soccer. It was temporarily closed following the 2011 disaster and turned into an operational base to handle the aftermath of the nuclear accident. J-Village was fully reopened in 2019 and became a starting place for the Tokyo Olympics torch relay in March 2021. (Translated by Kyodo News)