Students’ tours deliver fun experiences in Fukushima’s devastated Futaba

FUTABA, Fukushima — University students and other young people operated two-day tours in October and November to promote the Futaba area in Fukushima Prefecture, where residents are still recovering from the accident at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

The tours, named Palette Camp Fukushima, were organized by the general incorporated association F-ATRAs, which promotes tourism in the area.

Masayuki Kobayashi, 21, an intern for the association and student at Tohoku University, planned the tours to let the participants experience the “fun side” of the area through various activities.

About 30 participants from Tokyo, Miyagi Prefecture and other areas in their teens to 60s enjoyed viewing starry skies, tasting home-cooked dishes prepared by a food specialist from the town of Futuba and practicing early morning open-air yoga.

The association members also guided participants to an abandoned house in the town, which was evacuated after the accident, and the Historical Archive Museum of Tomioka in the town of Tomioka that details the accident and the town’s history.

According to the association, many participants said they want to visit Futaba again, and a male participant said the area is “a place full of hope and potential that will be greater than how it was before.”

Trishit Banerjee, 24, an Indian student at Tohoku University graduate school who developed the tours with Kobayashi, said: “We feel extremely humbled and honored. The participants’ responses were beyond our expectations and opened our eyes to a multitude of possibilities.”

The participants and local residents still communicate on the messaging app Slack even after the tours were over.

Banerjee said, “We want to develop a virtual Futaba town where many people can join, interact, collaborate on different ideas and actually simulate them online.”

Kobayashi, Banerjee and other association members are scheduled to hold the tours again next year.