Tohoku teens plan thank-you festival in Paris

by Masaaki Kameda

Staff Writer

Some 80 Tohoku teenagers in an OECD-supported educational project will hold a cultural festival in Paris in August to express gratitude to those who supported the region’s recovery, student representatives said Friday.

At an education ministry press conference in Tokyo, three students who outlined the two-day festival said they wish to present an upbeat picture of those who are leading positive lives since the March 2011 mega-quake and tsunami.

The festival, to be held from Aug. 30 to 31 in the French capital, will represent the culmination of the OECD Tohoku School project jointly launched in March 2012 by the Paris-based Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, the education ministry and Fukushima University to help nurture future leaders who can foster the region’s recovery.

Attracting about 100 junior high and high school students from nine cities and towns in Fukushima, Miyagi and Iwate prefectures, the 2½-year project has provided them with project-based educational programs including workshops, lectures and discussions. Students were given a mission to hold “an event in Paris in 2014 to show off Tohoku’s recovery and charm to the world.”

“We’d like to not only report to the world how badly Tohoku suffered and what our situation is like right now, but also show our gratitude to those who have supported us” through the festival, said 16-year-old Yurika Kishi, second-year student at Fukushima National College of Technology.

“We’d also like to show that we have as much passion as adults for Tohoku reconstruction and that, although we have a traumatic past, we are leading positive lives without losing hopes for the future,” she added.

Some 80 students will travel to Paris for the two-day event, dubbed “Tohoku Fukkosai — Wa — in Paris” (roughly meaning “Festival for revival of happiness in Tohoku, working together, in Paris”). It will be held at the Champ de Mars, a large park near the Eiffel Tower and feature exhibitions, booths, and a stage for dance performances.

Some of the items and events that might be featured include traditional festivals from the Tohoku region, foods from Fukushima Prefecture and exhibitions about the roles played by nuclear power and renewable energy in Japan.

Students from the city of Iwaki in Fukushima will also hold a domino effect event that will see the tumbling chips used to express the region’s past, present and future.

Students from Kesennuma, Miyagi Prefecture, will meanwhile display traditional kites called “tenbata” bearing messages written by people from Japan and abroad.

A documentary video on the students’ activities in the OECD Tohoku School will also be screened.

The leader of the students, Riku Sato, said he plans to organize a festival that will showcase the upbeat aspects of Tohoku and avoid presenting it as an object of pity.

“I wanted the exhibits to boast how fascinating and exciting a place Tohoku is, rather than show we’re victims of disasters who deserve pity,” said the 18-year-old from Fukushima Prefectural Iwaki High School.

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