Iitate junior high schoolers join “host town summit” for Tokyo Olympics

24 February 2019

A group of students from Iitate Junior High School in the Fukushima Prefecture village of Iitate participated in a “host town summit” in Tokyo on Feb. 23 ahead of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics, showcasing their activities associated with Laos. Iitate has been selected to connect with Laos under the “Arigato (thank you) Host Town for Supporting Reconstruction” program initiated by the national government for designated municipalities in three prefectures -- Fukushima, Iwate and Miyagi -- hit by 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake to thank and promote exchanges with designated countries and regions that extended help after the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster. The gathering took place on Musashino University’s Ariake campus in Tokyo’s waterfront area.

The summit was hosted by the Secretariat of the Headquarters for the Promotion of the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games in the Cabinet Secretariat. The Iitate school was invited to make a presentation together with junior and senior high schools in Shizukuishi town, Iwate Prefecture, and Kanoya city, Kagoshima Prefecture, all picked as schools proactively practicing host town activities. Kanoya is one of the host towns for pre-Games training by countries and regions participating in the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics. The group of 20 first- and second-grade Iitate junior high students visited the summit venue and seven of them introduced their activities in the form of a conference dubbed “a general assembly of the IOC (Iitate Olympic Committee).”

In their presentation, the students briefed the audience on how the village has been recovering from the disaster and how its exchanges with Laos have developed. They also introduced self-cooked original cuisine combining local food in Laos and Iitate, “colored pencils with packed seeds attached” to be sent to Laos, and a T-shirt using the village’s original flower species “Iitate Olympia” as a design motif, among other activities. The students also unveiled a video produced for Laotian athletes. “I think we have been able to convey the attractiveness of Laos in an ample manner,” said Sana Kanno , a second-year student acting as chair of the committee, expressing her sense of fulfillment.

At the summit, the Iitate students also interacted with those from Tokushima Commercial High School (known as Tokusho for short) in Tokushima city, Tokushima Prefecture, registered as a pre-Olympic training host town for Cambodia. They sought tips for their future activities from initiatives of the Tokusho students, including the production of a video introducing athletes and opening of a “Tokusho department store.” The Iitate students were presented with Cambodia’s traditional clothing known as “kroma” and enjoyed eating a “castella” sponge cake made from palm sugar, a Cambodian local specialty, and other food. “It was informative to have learned that they make arrangement on their own thoughts,” Iitate Junior High School second grader Naito Otani said, impressed by the Tokusho students’ initiatives. Olympics minister Yoshitaka Sakurada also attended the exchange event.

The venue was decorated with posters produced by all 42 Iitate Junior High School students to convey the village’s allures to Laotian athletes, drawing attention of visitors. The posters will be sent to Laos later.

The Iitate students are seeking exchanges with Laos under the slogan of “Know, convey and have people come” as part of a “learn about the hometown” project.

■“Host Town House” eyed in Tokyo

The government’s Headquarters for the Promotion of the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games said on Feb. 23 it is considering operating a “Host Town House” in Tokyo during the 2020 Games together with municipalities across Japan which are set to undertake “host town” projects intended to allow exchanges between athletes from abroad and local residents. The proposed Tokyo house is designed to be a base for introducing the cultures of countries participating in the Games and showcasing exchange activities with local municipalities.

(Translated by Kyodo News)