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Fukushima aims to attract new residents

A sign gives notice of decontamination and building demolition in areas categorized as difficult-to-return zones within Futaba, Fukushima Prefecture.

September 20, 2021

FUKUSHIMA – The central and local governments have begun encouraging people from outside Fukushima Prefecture to move into areas surrounding Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings, Inc.’s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, hoping that new residents will revive the areas.

The central government plans to lift evacuation orders in all areas categorized as difficult-to-return zones so that residents wishing to return to their homes can do so within the 2020s. However, in areas where such an order has already been lifted, residents have been slow to return.

300 newcomers sought

I’ve long wanted to contribute to the reconstruction of Fukushima, said Daisuke Yamamoto, 49, an engineer who moved from Sapporo to the city of Tamura, Fukushima Prefecture, in August.

Yamamoto said he aimed to set up his own business there.

The central government’s financial support system, which began in July, encouraged him to move in. The system grants up to 2 million Yen to those who move into 12 municipalities near the nuclear plant from outside the prefecture. Additional funds of up to 4 million Yen will be paid if they launch a business there. The government’s goal is to bring in 300 new people this fiscal year alone.

Local municipalities are preparing for new residents. In July, the Fukushima prefectural government set up a joint support center with the 12 municipalities. In Minami-Soma, vacant houses will be renovated into rental housing. In the village of Katsurao, eight units of municipal apartment housing will be constructed.

10% want to return

Behind the move is the slow return of residents to areas where the evacuation orders were lifted. The Reconstruction Agency and others surveyed the residents of five towns, including Futaba and Okuma, and found that only about 10% wanted to return.

The town of Namie, where the evacuation order was partially lifted in 2017, now has a population of 1,717. In fiscal 2019, 70 people in 49 households moved into the town from outside the prefecture, thanks in part to the presence of factories opened by 10 companies, but the population is still only about a tenth of its pre-disaster size.

The only way to keep the town going is to further increase the number of new arrivals, a town official said.

Commuting, restoring

Over 10 years after the nuclear accident, people who have rebuilt their lives in areas to which they evacuated will have the option of having residences in two locations, commuting to Fukushima Prefecture while carrying on with their present lives elsewhere.

A 66-year-old man who moved his family to Hitachi, Ibaraki Prefecture, has a home in an area categorized as a difficult-to-return zone in Namie. In order to return to that home, he would need to repair the now dilapidated house. His children have found jobs in Ibaraki. The man’s life in Ibaraki, where he grows vegetables in rented fields, has become settled.

I have no choice but to spend two hours each way to get to and from Fukushima, he said.

In a survey conducted last fiscal year by the towns of Futaba, Okuma and Tomioka on their residents, about 60% said they wanted to maintain ties with their hometowns.

The evacuation order for Naraha was lifted in 2015, but the number of residents in the town now has leveled off at 50% of the population before the accident. The town aims to raise the figure to 60% by 2030, or 5,130 people, by subsidizing JR train fares for residents who live in two locations.

The town of Tomioka supports residents who have been evacuated outside the town in the hope of bringing about reconstruction by commuting. It opened social center and support office facilities in Iwaki, Fukushima Prefecture, and Saitama City, which are two places where many evacuated Tomioka residents now live. In those facilities, staff check up on the health of the evacuees or give counseling.

Those who want to go home someday will become important people for the progress of reconstruction, said Yusuke Yamashita, a sociology professor at Tokyo Metropolitan University. The central and local governments should continue to provide assistance from the perspective of reconstruction by commuting.

September 20, 2021 Posted by | Fukushima 2021 | , , , | Leave a comment

Fukushima village reaches out to single-parent families after evacuation order lifted

Very few evacuees want to return to live in contaminated villages, those villages therefore have to offer many incentives to people if they want to repopulate, and not remain just the ghost towns that they became.

KAWAUCHI, Fukushima — The municipal government here, where an evacuation order, issued following the 2011 outbreak of the Fukushima nuclear crisis, was lifted on June 14, is encouraging single-parent families in urban areas to move to the village in a bid to put the brakes on its population decline and aging.

To that end, the Kawauchi Municipal Government plans to provide up to 800,000 yen in subsidies to each single-parent family that moves to the village.

“It’s possible to live more comfortably in the village than in Tokyo and other urban areas,” says an official of the municipal government in charge of the program.

A total of 51 people in 19 households in the Ogi and Kainosaka districts in eastern Kawauchi were affected by the evacuation order that was lifted on June 14. Most of these people have no plans to return home.

Evacuation orders had been lifted in all areas in the village apart from Ogi and Kainosaka by October 2014. Nevertheless, only about 1,800 of some 3,000 residents who had lived in the village before the disaster had returned by April 1 this year.

Approximately 40 percent of those who have returned are elderly people aged 65 or over.

As countermeasures against population decline and aging, the Kawauchi Municipal Government has decided to offer financial incentives to encourage single-parent households outside the village, including those in urban areas, to move in.

Specifically, the municipal government will provide 600,000 yen to each single-parent household that will live in the village to help them buy a car and move into their new home, and 50,000 yen per person (for up to four people) to cover miscellaneous expenses.

The maximum amount of the subsidies is 800,000 yen for a family comprising a parent and three children. The municipal government will introduce full-time jobs at companies operating in the village to those who move there, and provide a subsidy to cover half of the rent of privately owned apartments (up to 20,000 yen).

The municipal government will organize a two-day tour for those who are interested in the program July 29-30, and will begin to accept applicants for the tour as early as this week.

The village will use grants from the national government, which are part of measures to revitalize local economies, to finance the program. Under the program, the municipal government is considering accepting five to 10 new residents a year through fiscal 2017, and about 15 residents per year beyond that.

Moreover, a consultative council encouraging single-parent families to move into the village will be set up with the participation of a local women’s association. Elderly women living in the village will support new residents’ childrearing. Day care services are provided for free in the village.

June 21, 2016 Posted by | Fukushima 2016 | , , | Leave a comment