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Fukushima firm plants seeds of revitalization in bid to rebuild Lake Fujinuma area

Fukushima Minpo

Aiming to return the area around Lake Fujinuma in Sukagawa, Fukushima Prefecture, to its former glory in the aftermath of the March 2011 disasters, a group of local citizens has launched a company to try to turn the area into a top spot for hydrangea hunters.

The company, Omofuru Heart, began operations this month after the city approved its 28 staff members as designated managers of the nature park around the lake.

Before the calamity, the park, which surrounds the 20-hectare lake, had been known for various trees and golden-banded lilies, attracting tourists and residents alike to enjoy flower viewing in the spring and camping in the summer.

But that all changed when the March 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake hit and caused the agricultural dam that formed the lake to fail, draining it bare.

Things took a turn for the better in April 2013, when members of a local chamber of commerce committee formed to restore the lake found a number of young hydrangeas while walking on its exposed bottom.

The team then got the idea of dividing up the roots of the plants to distribute them nationwide to help grow what they called “miracle hydrangeas.”

So far, the roots have been sent to about 2,000 individuals and groups from Hokkaido to Okinawa Prefecture.

Omofuru Heart is now calling on these people to bring in their hydrangea saplings and plant them around the lake at a ceremony scheduled for June 25.

With its once-famed golden-banded lilies gone, the company now hopes to make Lake Fujinuma known for its hydrangeas.

“People have been moved by the hydrangeas as a symbol of reconstruction,” said Omofuru Heart President Takeo Fukaya, who is also the head of Lake Fujinuma reconstruction committee.

Fukaya, 71, has been instrumental in the miracle hydrangea project, with the idea to distribute the roots attracting widespread attention.

“I wondered if we could make hydrangeas a pillar of reinvigoration for the local community,” Fukaya said, recalling how he decided to establish Omofuru Heart.

Besides planting hydrangeas, the firm plans to sell processed food using such local produce as buckwheat, rapeseed oil and soybeans.

It is also considering setting up a “green tourism” project in cooperation with local farmers, under which visitors stay in cottages in the nature park and are able to experience farm life.

Work to rebuild the dam was completed in December, and the agricultural water supply is expected to be restored by the end of April.

“With water back in the lake, this year is a great chance for our restart,” Fukaya said, looking over the reservoir, which had been filled for the first time in six years.

“We want to make Lake Fujinuma a place where visitors say they want to come back to,” he said.

This section focuses on topics and issues covered by the Fukushima Minpo, the largest newspaper in Fukushima Prefecture. The original article was published on April 2.