National

Shanghai man who witnessed 3/11 disaster promotes Fukushima overseas

JIji

Xu Quanyi was on his first trip to Fukushima Prefecture when a massive earthquake and tsunami devastated the region.

Nine years later, the Shanghai native is working hard to promote the charm of the prefecture overseas in order to dispel misunderstandings and prejudice stemming from the 2011 nuclear meltdown.

While the prefectural government is working to eliminate unfounded rumors over the contamination of agricultural products following the nuclear disaster, “I think there are (certain) things only foreigners living in Fukushima can do” to help the prefecture, Xu said in Japanese.

Xu joined a central government-sponsored program to revitalize Oku-Aizu, the southwestern part of the Aizu region in the prefecture, in 2018. The 35-year-old has acted as a tour guide for visitors, mainly from China, and spreads information on social networks and promotes the relocation and resettlement of people.

“I know Fukushima better than anyone else. I want to tell as many people as possible how (the prefecture) is attractive,” he stressed.

After graduating from Ritsumeikan University in Kyoto in 2009, Xu landed a position at the Fukushima Prefectural Government’s Shanghai office.

He visited Fukushima for the first time on a business trip on March 10, 2011, just a day before the massive earthquake and tsunami struck, leading to the triple meltdown at Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc.’s Fukushima No. 1 plant.

“I was stuck at a station for over 10 hours and was at a loss over what to do,” he recalled.

While he was able to return to Shanghai, he regretted not being involved in relief activities in the prefecture immediately after the disaster.

Xu later worked at the prefectural government as a coordinator through an international exchange program.

After his term as the coordinator was over, he joined the state-subsidized cooperation program for regional revitalization because he did not want to leave Fukushima.

Speaking about Fukushima’s attractions, Xu pointed out that many tourists from outside Japan are drawn to East Japan Railway Co.’s Tadami Line, which runs along the Tadami River in the mountainous Aizu region.

Photos of trains traveling on a long arch bridge over a deep gorge, across paddy fields and through colorful autumn landscapes, to name a few, have gone viral. Several locations along the line have become known as photogenic spots but taking good pictures is not easy, however, because not many trains are in service.

According to Xu, participants on sightseeing tours arranged by his office stand a good chance of taking photos of trains at two or more spots in one day.

“I think our tour members have been satisfied with this,” he said.

Meanwhile, Xu sees Fukushima’s goods and tourism still suffering from reputational damage because people “tend to believe false rumors.”

Chinese, in particular, have a tendency to trust wild rumors on the internet rather than information provided by authorities, he noted.

“Although spreading accurate information on social media is important, the most effective solution is having people come here to see the actual situation,” he said.

“I’ll keep working for Fukushima,” he added.

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