FUKUSHIMA – A village affected by the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster has turned to an unlikely public relations ambassador with the appointment of a locally born search and rescue dog.
The 6-year-old mixed-breed — named Jagaimo (potato) — will be tasked with promoting the Fukushima Prefecture village of Iitate, for which an evacuation order was mostly lifted in March.
In the two-year posting, Jagaimo will participate events designed to promote the village.
At a ceremony on Monday, Jagaimo received a certificate and an ambassador’s plate to hang on his collar from Iitate Mayor Norio Kanno. After the ceremony, Jagaimo showed off his skills in a mock rescue operation, successfully locating a trapped victim to applause from the audience.
Jagaimo was born in June 2011, three months after the March 2011 disaster. Because the village was declared off-limits following the disaster, Jagaimo was transferred to the nonprofit Japan Animal Care Center in the city of Gifu in August that year.
In Gifu, Jagaimo was trained to become a rescue dog but failed to pass the test over 10 straight attempts. On the 11th try in June, Jagaimo finally made it.
“I passed. I’m so happy,” said a June 8 entry on a Facebook page established for Jagaimo. “Now I can give the good news to my hometown of Iitate.”