At 10:00 a.m. on May 1, the national government partially lifted its evacuation order for Iitate Village in Fukushima Prefecture. Of the area designated as a place “where residents will not be able to return home for a long time,” approximately 186 hectares were redesignated as a specified reconstruction and revitalization base (also known as a “reconstruction base”). That redesignation was to allow the lifting of the evacuation order ahead of other areas, enabling people to live there again. (The lifting includes some areas beyond the reconstruction base.)
The government had designated two villages and four towns in the prefecture— a total of approximately 2,800 hectares—as reconstruction bases. Evacuation orders for all of them have now been lifted, except for a portion of Tomioka Town.
In the Naganuma district of Iitate Village (where the evacuation order was lifted), a demonstration project is underway toward reducing volumes and reusing soil removed as part of decontamination. The aim is to recycle the removed soil, now stored at a temporary storage site in the village, and to return the land to farming.
Edible crops have already been grown, including kabu (Japanese turnips), cucumbers, zucchini, and lettuce, as well as flowers, the harvested crops having grown well. It has been confirmed that radioactive cesium concentrations are substantially lower than the regulatory standard.
The lifting of the order for Iitate Village was decided on April 25 at the national government’s nuclear emergency response headquarters. At a regular press conference in the afternoon of May 1, Governor UCHIBORI Masao of Fukushima reiterated the significance, saying, “This is a great step forward for the entire ‘area where residents will not be able to return home for a long time’ —a big step forward toward its reconstruction and restoration, too.”
Referring to the lifting of the orders in areas beyond the reconstruction base, he said, “Each municipality is conducting surveys to determine the number of people desiring to return home. The village is endeavoring to resolve issues, including the scope of decontamination and how to deal with residences whose owners won’t come back.” The national government, the prefecture, and local municipalities, he added, would work together to identify courses of action, indicating that the prefecture would focus all its power accordingly.
Coincidentally, on May 1, the day of the press conference, rankings were announced for the Summer Grand Sumo Tournament, which began on May 14. Governor Uchibori was asked for his thoughts on the promotion of Wakamotoharu, a rikishi (wrestler) from Fukushima, to the sekiwake rank. With obvious delight, the governor said, “He has done his best in every match and has been an inspiration to the people of Fukushima, who are doing their best to rebuild and recreate the prefecture.” Wakamotoharu is one of Fukushima’s “three Onami brothers” (their family name), all in sumo. He was promoted to the komusubi rank in January and, with winning records in the January and March tournaments, to sekiwake in May.