A heartwarming story about Fukushima evacuees giving out rice balls to drivers stranded by heavy snow three years ago and helping one who fell ill will appear in an ethics textbook for elementary school pupils, according to a Tokyo publisher.

The evacuees from the village of Iitate, about 30 km from the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant crippled in March 2011, made news after walking through meter-high snow and handing out some 300 of the onigiri to drivers on National Route 4 in the town of Matsukawa when record snowfall hit the area on Feb. 16, 2014.

The people, who were living in temporary housing built near the national road, made the rice balls by cooking up rice they had received as aid from the city of Takaoka in Toyama Prefecture.

A diabetic driver who had nearly lost consciousness from hunger after being trapped in his vehicle for several hours said the rice ball saved his life and thanked the residents of Iitate afterward.

The evacuees said at the time they were just giving back a small part of the support they had received from around the world after the nuclear crisis triggered by the mega-quake and tsunami on March 11, 2011.

"It is an episode that warms our hearts and makes us appreciate the beauty of human ties," said an editor at Kobunshoin Publishing Co., who is in charge of the textbook for sixth-graders in fiscal 2018.

"We hope this kind of thinking will spread among children through our textbook," the editor said.

The story of the "life-saving rice ball" was made into a children's picture-story show in 2014 and has been performed in Fukushima and elsewhere.

The government's evacuation order for Iitate was largely lifted on March 31, but the number of returning residents is expected to be low.