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New national park designated as part of rebuilding efforts in Tohoku, asahi, 5/25/13

The Environment Ministry has reorganized natural parks in the Sanriku coastal region into one national park as part of efforts to spur reconstruction of the area devastated by the 2011 earthquake and tsunami.

In an announcement May 24, the ministry said it will restore the natural surroundings of the area in northeastern Japan, with an emphasis on preserving the rias shoreline, for which the region is famous.

The combined national park, named Sanriku Fukko (reconstruction) National Park, stretches along the coastline from Hachinohe, Aomori Prefecture, to Kesennuma, Miyagi Prefecture.

Environment Minister Nobuteru Ishihara said the reorganization is a “first step” to creating a national park that will contribute to the reconstruction of the region devastated by the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami.

The new park encompasses Rikuchukaigan National Park, which straddles Iwate and Miyagi prefectures, and Tanesashikaigan-Hashikamidake Prefectural Natural Park, a breeding ground for black-tailed gulls located in Aomori Prefecture.

The trail along the coast of the park will be rebuilt as the Michinoku Shiokaze (sea wind) trail.

The ministry also plans to incorporate Minami-Sanriku Kinkasan Quasi-National Park into the new park in 2014, along with three other prefectural natural parks, including Matsushima, in Miyagi Prefecture, at a later date.

Links from the Reconstruction Agency

These are all links from the March 2013 Current Status update from the Reconstruction Agency.

The entire presentation can be downloaded here:


[English webpages] Current Status and Path Toward Reconstruction Outline of the Special Zones for Reconstruction (focused on tax breaks) Outline of the Special Zones for Reconstruction Framework of the Law for Special Zone for Reconstruction [Japanese webpages] < Special Zones for Reconstruction >
Details of the Special Zones for Reconstruction ※Comprehensive document detailing a wide range of issues such as deregulation and tax breaks
Exhaustive list of approved plans for special zones for reconstruction

Grants for Reconstruction>
 Outline of each Core Project (40 consolidated projects to be conducted by municipalities )
 First distribution (including a list of funded projects for each municipality)
 Second distribution (including a list of funded projects for each municipality)
 Third distribution (including a list of funded projects for each municipality)
 Fourth distribution (including a list of funded projects for each municipality)
 Fifth distribution (including a list of funded projects for each municipality)

Makeshift Clinic Opens in Former No-Go Zone in Fukushima, jiji press, 5/9/13


   Namie, Fukushima Pref., May 9 (Jiji Press)–A makeshift clinic opened Thursday in Namie, Fukushima Prefecture, becoming the first medical facility to resume service in the former no-go zones within 20 kilometers of Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s <9501> crippled nuclear power plant in the northeastern prefecture.
   The clinic, set up at Namie’s town hall, will take care of residents making temporary visits to their homes.
   Since the realignment of evacuation zones with the no-go zone designation lifted for Namie last month, evacuees from the town’s coastal area, where 80 pct of its population totaling 20,000 lived before the nuclear accident at the Fukushima No. 1 plant in March 2011, have been allowed to visit their homes only during daytime.
   “Though infrastructure restoration is important, town residents cannot return home without anxieties unless a medical institution is back,” Namie Mayor Tamotsu Baba said in an opening ceremony for the clinic. “I’m very happy to see the opening of the makeshift clinic.”
   A doctor and a nurse will be at the clinic every Thursday from 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. to treat mainly acute diseases such as heat stroke as well as injuries incurred during debris removal work.

Reclassification of no-go zones in 9 municipalities to be completed, fukushima minpo, 5/8/13

The reclassification of the evacuation zones set in nine municipalities in Fukushima Prefecture after the nuclear disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi power station will be completed at midnight May 27 with the step in Futaba town.
The town, all of which has been designated as a no-go zone, will be reclassified into an area difficult for residents to return to over a long period of time and into an area readying for the lifting of evacuation orders.
Futaba’s reclassification would complete the work to reclassify the evacuation zones in nine municipalities in Fukushima Prefecture which are located in a radius of 20 kilometers from the nuclear power plant.
Of the whole population of 76,420 in the evacuation zones in the nine municipalities, 32,130 or 42 percent would be in areas readying for the lifting of evacuation orders where businesses such as manufacturers are able to resume operations in the daytime.
The population in the residence-restricted areas with visitation-only access where residents would be allowed to enter in the daytime but cannot resume business operations would be 19,230 or 25 percent of the total.
A total of 51,360 people, or 67 percent, can enter the two categories of areas in the daytime, conduct repairing work and sort out household goods at their homes.
The central and local governments are expected to speed up the work to restore infrastructure, such as roads and water supply and sewage service systems.
But areas difficult for residents to return to over a long period of time are set in six of the nine municipalities. The population in those areas stands at 25,002. In the towns of Futaba and Okuma, 96 percent of the residents are from those areas.
The residents in the reclassified areas expect an acceleration of preparations for them to return to their hometowns, such as repairs of their homes. But more work to decontaminate radiation will be necessary for the residents to restore their living conditions. It is also necessary to reopen supermarkets and medical institutions.
The Environment Ministry has picked eight candidate sites to build temporary storage facilities for radiation-contaminated waste and debris.
According to a plan presented by the ministry to Futaba and Okuma towns, all the eight candidate sites are located in areas difficult for residents to return to over a long period of time.
The central government needs to pick the sites for temporary storage facilities and purchase land from the owners. Such owners may be required to take tough decisions to sell their home land.
In addition, the ministry has designated evacuation zones in 11 municipalities of Fukushima Prefecture as places where the central government should conduct decontamination work.
But full-fledged decontamination work has started only in four municipalities –- the city of Tamura, the town of Naraha, and the villages of Kawauchi and Iitate.
Decontamination work has been slow in the towns of Tomioka and Futaba where detailed plans for decontamination have yet to be worked out. At many areas in those municipalities, the prospects for residents to return home have yet to be worked out.
The town governments of Tomioka, Okuma, Futaba and Namie plan to build so-called “temporary communities” outside their hometowns for evacuees from the nuclear disaster.
Of the 12 municipalities where evacuation zones were set up in the aftermath of the nuclear disaster, the central government lifted its evacuation advisory for residents in the town of Hirono in September 2011.
In July 2012, the evacuation zone in the village of Iitate was reclassified into three areas. Only the Yamakiya district in the town of Kawamata has yet to be reclassified.

Last remaining pupil at Fukushima school hides his loneliness, asahi, 5/7/2012

FUKUSHIMA–Takashi Sato arrives at Onami Elementary School around 7:30 a.m., changes his navy uniform for a sky blue sweat suit, and starts his daily routine surrounded by empty classrooms and vacant hallways.

His constant smile and cheerful demeanor betray any sense of loneliness he may feel.

The 11-year-old is the only pupil at the school.

Forty-one children used to play in the yard at Onami Elementary School. But on March 11, 2011, a magnitude-9.0 earthquake and tsunami struck northeastern Japan, leading to meltdowns at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, 57 kilometers southeast of the school.

As fears of radiation spread, the number of elementary school pupils in Fukushima Prefecture fell below 100,000, down nearly 19,000 from before the nuclear accident.

Onami Elementary School and another elementary school in the prefecture now have only one pupil.

Takashi’s school day usually starts outside, where he is greeted by his teacher, Kei Omuro, 41, and the vice principal, Kazuaki Sato, 50. The boy gleefully replies, “Good morning.”

Before his first class starts, Takashi does some exercise, such as running and skipping, on the soft new soil brought in after accumulated radioactive substances were removed.

The mountainous area where the school is located had relatively high radiation levels in Fukushima city. A schoolyard dosimeter now shows 0.3 microsievert per hour, slightly lower than in central parts of the city.

A photo of 10 smiling children, who attended the school until the 2012 academic year ended in March, hangs on the back of Takashi’s classroom.

Seven sixth-graders went on to junior high school. Two younger pupils transferred to a nearby elementary school because of the dwindling population at Onami Elementary School.

Takashi, now a sixth-grader, is the only one in the photo who remained.

When asked if he feels lonely without a classmate, he says, “I probably got used to it in about a week.”

Takashi said he makes it a rule not to say he is lonely.

“I keep it in here,” he says, holding his chest with both hands.

Takashi’s first class on April 23 is arithmetic. He and Omuro bow to each other when the class begins at 8:30 a.m.

The 60-square-meter classroom has only two desks–one for the pupil and one for the teacher–where they solve problems together. Takashi is good at arithmetic.

When Takashi appears drowsy, Omuro tells him to go to the restroom to wash his face.

“I could fall into a rut because we are alone,” Omuro says after Takashi leaves. “I make it a point not to.”

The fourth class is English, where Takashi learns how to introduce himself to a stranger.

“Hello, my name is Sato Takashi,” he says in a tense, cracking voice. “Uh. … What’s your name?”

The lesson brings out Omura’s sympathy for his young student.

“Usually, pupils practice conversations with their classmates on the same level, but Takashi has to partner with an adult,” the teacher says. “I feel sorry for him.”

Takashi’s lunch companions are also adults–Omuro, Sato and two school employees. He plays catch with Sato at lunch break.

The boy’s routine at school can take a strange turn.

At 1:30 p.m., he goes to a broadcasting booth, and speaks into a microphone to tell his nonexistent schoolmates: “Let’s start cleaning.”

He plays music and returns to his classroom to wash the floor.

He returns to the booth after 15 minutes to announce the end of the cleaning task. “Thanks for a job well done,” he tells the school.

Omuro never asks Takashi if he feels lonely.

He says he cannot forget when Takashi learned he would be the only pupil from the new academic year during the last school lunch in March.

“Takashi was visibly upset,” Omuro says, with tears in his eyes.

Masaaki Abe, 54, principal of the Onami Elementary School, says he wants Takashi to get in touch with as many people as possible at the elementary school to nurture his social development.

He meets Takashi at the school entrance at 7:30 a.m. Around the same time, Yoshinobu Sakuma, 60, a school janitor, cleans around the entrance to greet the school’s only pupil.

Local residents have played a big part in Takashi’s school life.

The Onami district solicited contributions in March and donated 300,000 yen ($3,000) to the elementary school to spend on Takashi’s education.

Yoshitsugu Yamaki, 54, who heads the local athletic association, says he plans to liven up the May annual sports festival organized by residents and Onami Elementary School.

“We will ask for help from the women’s division of the agricultural cooperative association and serve rice balls and miso soup with pork and vegetables,” Yamaki says.

This year, Takashi may take part as a member of a school team that includes teachers and school employees.

Despite the enthusiasm for local events, residents who evacuated from the Onami district are not expected to return anytime soon.

“We have to keep up our efforts to encourage them to gradually return to their hometown, starting with attending events such as the sports festival and the summer festival,” Yamaki says.

As a sixth-grader, Takashi will move on to a junior high school next year.

Yamaki says he hopes the elementary school will not be closed after Takashi graduates.


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