Iitate fully reopens village office after 5-year hiatus since nuke disaster

The village of Iitate in Fukushima Prefecture fully reopened its office on July 1 for the first time in about five years since the entire village was evacuated following the 2011 nuclear accident at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima Daiichi plant. "We would like to do our best to have as many villagers as possible return home permanently," Iitate Mayor Norio Kanno said, pledging to accelerate reconstruction at a ceremony held at the village office to mark the relocation of office functions from a temporary office in Iino-machi, Fukushima city. After the ceremony, village office employees had a commemorative group photo taken against the backdrop of the office, holding works of penmanship by calligrapher Masatsugu Saito of Fukushima city, who heads the "Soryukai" group of calligraphy lovers. The works read in Japanese: "The sun also rises over the village of 'madei'," "gratitude," "leap" and "heart." The term "madei" means living with a pure, sincere heart in harmony with nature, leading a "slow life" as advocated by the village mayor. In April 2014, the village partially resumed office functions in Iitate, limiting them to reconstruction response and two other sections. Despite the resumption of a full range of office duties, the Iino-machi office will remain as a branch to support evacuees and offer some over-the-counter services. On July 1, registered residents also launched long-term temporary lodging at their evacuated homes in preparation for the lifting of an evacuation order set for March 31, 2017. Subject to the action are 5,917 residents of 1,770 households in two village areas -- a residency-restricted zone and a zone preparing for the lifting of the evacuation order. Of the total, 193 people of 83 families have registered for the temporary stay scheme as of June 30. (Translated by Kyodo News)