New Joban Line station eyed near J-Village soccer hub

3 November 2017

A plan has been floated to set up a new Joban Line railway station near the J-Village national soccer center that straddles the Fukushima Prefecture towns of Naraha and Hirono. Talks are already under way among the parties concerned, including the prefectural government, local municipalities and East Japan Railway Co. (JR East). According to related officials, the blueprint calls for the start of construction work in fiscal 2018, beginning next April, with the station going operational in early fiscal 2019 in line with the J-Village's full reopening.

Details of the planned new station, such as the location, how it should be built and cost-sharing arrangements, remain to be fixed. But a broad agreement is said to be already in place over its completion in time for the full resumption of the J-Village in the spring of 2019.

The nearest station from the soccer facility is Kido Station, about 2 kilometers away. The planned new station will improve access to the J-Village, likely boosting the number of users from within and outside the prefecture to help the facility revive as a soccer hub.

The J-Village was once used as a front-line base to cope with the aftermath of the 2011 nuclear accident at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima Daiichi plant. At present, work is in full swing to repair all the natural and artificial soccer pitches that were used as parking lots for the utility's employees and other workers immediately after the disaster. Work is also progressing to build additional facilities, including Japan’s first all-weather indoor practice field and new lodging quarters.

The J-Village has already been picked as a venue for training camps of the Japanese men’s and women’s national soccer teams for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Discussions are also under way to move the JFA Academy Fukushima back to the J-Village as early as fiscal 2021. The Japan Football Association (JFA) school for cultivating junior and senior high school students as soccer players was relocated to Shizuoka Prefecture, central Japan, following the Great East Japan Earthquake and ensuing nuclear accident.

Fukushima is seeking to revitalize local communities with the help of soccer by nurturing players and coaches through programs such as exchange events and lecture meetings in the J-Village undertaken in partnership with the JFA, the Fukushima Football Association, the JFA Academy Fukushima and major soccer clubs in the prefecture. Fukushima also plans to invite teams from a broad range of competitive fields, including rugby and American football, to training camps.

The disaster-stricken Joban Line remains idled over a 20.8-kilometer stretch between Tomioka and Namie stations. JR East is aiming to restore the entire line by the end of fiscal 2019.

(Translated by Kyodo News)