Before the Great East Japan Earthquake, Yonomori — a community in Tomioka Town — was one of the best cherry blossom-viewing sites in Fukushima Prefecture.
It’s as if time has stopped in Yonomori since the earthquake, seen in things like the large number of bags still lined up along the roadway between the towns of Naraha and Tomioka that are filled with soil and dry grass collected in the process of decontamination of radioactive materials.
“I used this roadway as a school route during my high school days,” says Hideaki Niitsuma, who grew up in Naraha and went to high school in Tomioka. He acts as a guide and a storyteller of the community. After the quake, he joined the Iwaki Otento SUN Enterprise Cooperative, whose aim is to create Fukushima’s new future by harnessing renewable energies.
In Hirono, which is next to Naraha, 30 percent of the local people have returned to their hometown, showing a new movement for the town’s recovery. Projects have started up, such as the Fukushima Organic Cotton Project, where local people grow Japanese cotton organically and manufacture products from the harvested cotton. The cultivation of organic cotton has expanded from Iwaki City through Hirono Town.
I also saw the construction site of Hirono Community Electric Power — a photovoltaic power generation system with an output of 49 kilowatts — which is being built on town-owned land. Revenues from the sale of electricity generated in the system will be allocated to management costs of cotton fields and disaster-prevention green spaces.