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Providing continuing support suited to oneself!
Publicizing the attractions of Fukushima from a student viewpoint

Emi Kanari

“I was never very interested in volunteer activities.” That is what Emi Kanari, deputy representative of the Fukushima revitalization student support group, the Aibe Fukushima Project, told us. Approximately 15 people, primarily university students from the metropolitan area, participate in the organization, promoting the attractions of Fukushima Prefecture from a student viewpoint over social networking sites such as Facebook. Their motto is to express things in a form that will appeal to people of their generation.

When the Tohoku Earthquake occurred, Kanari was at her family’s home in the city of Sukagawa in Fukushima. However, as Kanari was scheduled to enter Waseda University next month, she traveled to Tokyo a few days later. Of course, even after entering Waseda, Kanari constantly searched for ways to help Fukushima. Although she was invited to volunteer in areas struck by the disaster, the idea just did not click with Kanari. “For some reason I didn’t want to participate in those activities, but rather, exactly because of the fact that my home town was struck by the disaster, I wanted to do something which would resonate with me. I searched for a long time for volunteer work which suited me.”

Kanari first learned of Aibe Fukushima around one year after the earthquake during her second year at Waseda. An acquaintance working at the municipal office in her home town told her that there were university students in Tokyo engaged in activities to promote Fukushima, and encouraged Kanari to take a look. “The idea of Tokyo university students working to support Fukushima while in Tokyo was really novel for me. Seeing their work, I felt that I might be able to keep volunteering with them.” After learning about their style of volunteering, which focused on activities suited to what university students in Tokyo could do, Kanari immediately decided to join up. Kanari felt there was a need for continuous support, and, for her, being able to continue volunteering without overdoing things was very important.

At the “Fuku♡Café,” an event to be held to help promote Fukushima. With the cooperation of local farmers and others, the café stocked fresh ingredients from Fukushima. The event was a great success, with the café constantly filled to capacity.

Calling themselves “unofficial cheerleaders” of Fukushima Prefecture, Kanari and the other members of the organization focus on activities which will first and foremost help people become familiar with Fukushima. One such example is the “Fuku♡Café,” an event to promote fresh foods and local cuisine from Fukushima. The event has been held three times to date, and through it the members of Aibe Fukushima strove to remove consumer anxieties towards Fukushima Prefecture, such as by garnishing the meals they provided with messages from the local people who had produced the ingredients. “We listened to what the local producers had to say about the ingredients we used, and we aimed to convey that properly to others in our own words.”

Another event they planned, the “Farm Village Stay,” brought people to Fukushima. Conscious of the connections between people, the event created an opportunity for university students from the Kanto region interested in Fukushima and local people living in the prefecture to get to know each other through experiences in a farm village. The centerpiece of the tour was the chance to eat plenty of delicious Fukushima food. “The happiest thing for me was when one of the participants told me that to their relief, talking with the grandmother at the home where they stayed was like talking to their own grandmother. I had wanted as many people as possible to learn, if even a little, how warm the people of Fukushima are.”

Now in her fourth year at Waseda, Kanari is planning on letting a younger student take over for her, but she intends on continuing to support Fukushima in a manner appropriate to her. “Although we call ourselves unofficial cheerleaders, I feel keenly every day how our activities are supported by the efforts of numerous people. It’s almost more like we are the ones who are being cheered on. Because we are doing what we want to do, I would like to continue working to support Fukushima without forgetting my sense of responsibility and self-awareness.” Continuing to provide support while having fun and without overdoing it—support suited to oneself would seem to be one key to protecting against the fatigue of disaster.

Project members are mainly university students from the metropolitan area. They strive to create plans that will resonate with people the same age as themselves.

The one-night, two-day “Farm Village Stay” event. Participants were able to fully enjoy the attractions of Fukushima through farm work and sightseeing.

A dish served at the “Fuku♡Café”—a hamburg steak plate cooked like a traditional miso dengaku dish from the Aizu region.


Emi Kanari
Fourth Year, School of Political Science and Economics

Originally from Fukushima, Emi Kanari graduated from Asaka High School. She is the deputy representative of the Aibe Fukushima Project, which conducts promotional activities for Fukushima Prefecture under the theme “Let’s fall in love with Fukushima.” “Aibe” means “let’s go” in the dialect of the Aizu region of Fukushima. Kanari’s recommended local cuisine is “kappa-men,” a specialty of the city of Sukagawa.