Naraha residents gather for 1st community festival since 2011 quake, nuke disasters

The town of Naraha hosted a community festival at the newly completed Naraha Junior High School and other venues on March 21 to pray for its reconstruction and recovery from the 2011 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disasters. Many residents who have evacuated to other municipalities returned to their hometown for the occasion and the event was filled with joy and laughter from the participants. It was the town’s first large-scale event since the March 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and the ensuing nuclear crisis at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima Daiichi power plant. The organizers said they wanted to let residents see in person the progress of recovery and reconstruction in the town, and hoped the event would motivate some to move back as well as build momentum for further rehabilitation. The festival included a special lecture by TV personality-turned former Miyazaki Gov. Hideo Higashikokubaru, performances by popular animation and other characters, and small “class reunions” where residents of the same age groups got together to share their reminiscences of the old days. In the festival’s finale, the residents released into the air about 200 balloons, on which were written their thoughts and wishes for Naraha, to pray for their hometown’s recovery, shouting “Our hearts are united as one, Naraha!”