CASE 10「Tokyo Futaba Community（Tokyo）」
Main Article - Futaba-machi Gathering Event in Fukushima
August 4, 2018, Tokyo Futaba Community, a group consisting of citizens of the town of Futaba who have been evacuated to the Tokyo metropolitan area, visited Koriyama City and participated in a Bon Odori event to be held that day by Central Fukushima Area Futaba Community, and the groups networked as fellow citizens of Futaba.
10:30 a.m. The bus, carrying eighteen evacuees who had come to participate from Tokyo, Chiba, Saitama, and Ibaraki, arrived at the event venue, the Fukushima Agricultural Center.
The group was greeted by the 60 members of Central Fukushima Area Futaba Community, evacuees to the Koriyama area, who held a banner reading "Welcome, Tokyo Futaba Community." The venue entrance was filled with citizens of Futaba, happy to see each other again. Smiles and handshakes were exchanged amidst a chorus of, "Long time no see," and "How have you been?"
Roughly 100 people—citizens of Futaba from in and outside the prefecture and their supporters—were in attendance. The networking event began.
Chairman Ito of Central Fukushima Area Futaba Community, which pulled out all the stops in preparation for this day, spoke first. "It is wonderful to see you all again. I have been counting the days until we could meet."
Chairman Tani of Tokyo Futaba Community greeted the crowd, "I am so glad to see your familiar faces that I might cry. Though we only have a short time, let us enjoy it for as long as we can." Participants were touched by his words.
Members of the Futaba town council, including Mayor Izawa, Deputy Mayor Kanda, Director Asada of the Living Support Division Koriyama Branch Office, and others, also greeted the crowd. Mayor Izawa offered words of support for the citizens, still under forced evacuation, and spoke of the town's efforts to rebuild.
At the reception after lunch, attendees approached one another. All around, classmates, coworkers, and neighbors who had not seen each other in the seven and a half years since the earthquake shared their joy at meeting again.
The Futaba Folk Song Club performed the coal miners' song "Joban Tanko Bushi," to which attendees smiled and clapped along. Some closed their eyes to better listen to the familiar sounds. A woman was seen crying, perhaps overcome with thoughts of a hometown to which she cannot return.
At the end of the event, the town citizens all donned happi coats and gathered in a circle to dance Bon Odori to "Futaba Bon Uta" and "Futaba Ondo," two traditional songs of Futaba.
The venue lit up with the smiles and laughter of the dancers. Some stated they had forgotten the moves, but once the music started, it seemed as though their bodies remembered. The words "Town of Futaba" were printed on the black collars of the happi, and the words swayed in unison, seeming to speak for the dancers' strong feelings for their hometown that cannot be described in words. In a setting so full of sorrow and longing, and yet so warm and loving, one could not help but wish for the townspeople's good health, and that they may soon return to their beautiful home.
The reunion passed in what felt like no time at all. Evacuees who had come from outside the prefecture boarded the bus to Tokyo and opened the windows, calling, “See you again," as they waved. Attendees from within the prefecture waved and watched their fellow townspeople until the bus was out of sight. It was a parting of joy, remembrance, and loneliness. On the bus back, attendees spoke of their desire to hold an event like this again. The participant surveys contained comments such as, "My heart is full from seeing my old neighbors again," "Seeing how everyone is out there doing their best lifted my spirits," and "We got to see that our friends and neighbors are well. It gave me strength and motivation to get through this evacuee lifestyle."
In March 2011, the entire town of Futaba was forced to evacuate suddenly after the Great East Japan Earthquake. It has been seven years, four months. Currently, 96% of the town of Futaba is still designated a "Difficult-to-Return" zone. Some of the town's citizens have already decided to live long-term in the places to which they were evacuated. Others live their lives with the hope of someday returning. But all continue to hold their feelings for Futaba and the bonds they had there in a special place in their hearts as they try to live in the present, with eyes toward the future. This was evident at the event.
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