• Kyodo


A groundbreaking ceremony for a public housing project was held on Wednesday in the city of Natori, Miyagi Prefecture, to accommodate local residents displaced by the March 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami.

The project will consist of 42 houses, scheduled to be built by the end of March 2015, and an apartment building designed to accommodate 50 families, scheduled for completion in July 2015.

The project is the first such initiative in the area, which was one of the worst-hit in the disaster. More than 900 Natori residents lost their lives or remain missing.

“I hope we’ll be able to enable the residents to leave temporary housing as soon as possible and provide them with safe and comfortable accommodation,” said Natori Mayor Isoo Sasaki.

The city’s Shimomasuda district, where the complex will be built, is about three kilometers from the coast. The complex will cover an area of about 65,000 square meters. The area, which used to be rice paddies before the 2011 earthquake, was raised two meters to prevent flooding by tsunami.

“Finally we’ve managed to get this project started,” said 63-year-old Manabu Takahashi, who has been representing the community during negotiations to relocate the residents. “Seeing reconstruction work in progress will give hope to the residents.”

Private property owners have also begun to rebuild, with 70 houses scheduled for completion by September.

Meanwhile, for the first time since the catastrophic failure at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant in March 2011, lisianthus flowers grown within Fukushima Prefecture’s evacuation zone went on sale Wednesday in Tokyo.

The flowers were grown by Yoichi Kanno, 62, from Kawamata, a town southeast of Fukushima city, and were sold at the Ota Wholesale Market in Tokyo’s Ota Ward.

The Yamakiya district, where the flowers were farmed and where Kanno had lived before the disaster, has been designated as an evacuation zone.

Kanno and other flower farmers in Fukushima have continued to grow the flowers in greenhouses within the evacuation zone. While living outside of the zone, they commute in to care for the flowers during designated daytime hours.

This year they resumed growing lisanthius to sell, after flowers grown for testing last year were found to contain no radioactive elements.

“It’s a huge step forward,” Kanno said with a smile. “I believe that if we increase flower production, we may contribute to the reconstruction of the Yamakiya district.”

Some 500 cut flowers, shipped from Yamakiya for the first time in four years, were sold out by noon.

Omorikaki, one of the biggest wholesalers of cut flowers in Japan, purchased pink and violet lisianthus from Kanno and added the flowers to the stock at its stands.

Kanno, meanwhile, said that, compared to previous prices, this year’s flowers sold for about 20 percent less.

“To be honest, I was hoping to sell them at a higher price, but I still feel they are popular,” he said.