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Fukushima people find ray of hope in Japan's softball win

12 Comments
By Takaki Tominag

The very first event of the Tokyo Olympics, a softball match between Japan and Australia, was staged Wednesday in Fukushima to little fanfare, but some locals found a ray of hope after the host country's win while the underlying theme of the games to showcase the area's recovery from the 2011 earthquake has been overshadowed by the coronavirus.

Japan beat Australia 8-1 in the women's softball tournament held at Fukushima Azuma stadium in the northeastern Japanese city, two days before the formal opening of the games.

"Despite all adversities associated with the coronavirus, the Tokyo Olympics made a good start," said Yoshitsugu Hashimoto, 65, who lives right across from the ballpark and watched the match, which was held without spectators, on TV at home.

"I missed loud cheers of spectators that I used to hear whenever ballgames were held at the stadium. But I believe people in Fukushima are encouraged by the athletes' performance," said Hashimoto, who worked at a Canon Inc. factory for 46 years before retiring last September.

"It was a good win as the first match. I have great expectations for this team," said Hatsuo Nagasawa, 73, head of the softball association of Fukushima Prefecture and the Tohoku region, as he suggested the win may turn the tide in favor of the pandemic-hit Olympics shrouded by criticism and doubts.

Road closures were enforced around the stadium, where the match took place behind closed doors as a precaution against the spread of the virus, and access to the ballpark was strictly restricted.

As motorcades led by police and security authorities carrying officials entered the stadium, there was no sense of a festive mood.

All associated events that had been planned around the venue prior to the no-spectator policy were canceled as part of COVID-19 countermeasures. The only notable sounds heard in the area were that of a helicopter circling over the site and screaming cicadas.

"The bid for the games was made under the flag of 'Reconstruction Olympics,' but now it is hard to see the theme as the coronavirus overshadows everything," said Nobuyuki Saito, secretary general of a nonprofit organization in Fukushima. "I think it is regrettable."

To help build momentum toward the Olympics, set to formally begin Friday in the capital about 260 kilometers from Fukushima, Saito had been active in volunteer activities as he wanted people around the world to see recovering Fukushima Prefecture, which was devastated by the quake, ensuing tsunami and nuclear crisis a decade ago.

About 36,000 evacuees, especially those from near the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, have not been able to return home yet, but radiation levels have gone down to safe levels in most parts of the area now.

The Japanese leg of the torch relay started at the prefecture's J-Village soccer training center, used as an operation base for workers who battled the nuclear crisis for years, in late March to go through hundreds of municipalities in all of Japan's 47 prefectures.

"As the games were regarded as an opportunity to show the current status of Fukushima, a variety of plans had been under way before the no-spectator decision," said Seiichi Anbai, chairman of the Fukushima city softball association.

"Our emotions are polarized because considering the coronavirus situation, it is sort of understandable, but at the same time, we wanted the games being held with an audience," Anbai, 69, said.

But Anbai said he still hopes that more people will know about softball and play the sport because of the Olympics.

Sports lovers in particular are excited about the Olympics and Paralympics being staged in Japan and remain optimistic about the games' possible accomplishments.

"I'm excited to watch those games. I think they will pick up momentum as Japanese athletes deliver moving performances and win medals," said Ryosuke Yamazaki, a public high school teacher in Fukushima, adding he personally looks forward the most to watching the track and field events.

Saito, 67, also said, "I think people will talk about the Olympics held under the pandemic for a long time. I strongly hope the games will be a success even without spectators."

After barring overseas spectators in March, Olympic organizers made the unprecedented decision earlier this month to stage almost all competitions without allowing ticket holders in the stands due to a resurgence of COVID-19 infections in Tokyo and elsewhere.

The Olympic baseball opener will also be held at the same ballpark on July 28, between Japan and the Dominican Republic.

Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga stressed in an interview last week that the meaning of the Olympics will not be lost even though the events are held behind closed doors because some 4 billion people around the world will likely watch the games on television and other screens.

"I hope they can see the recovery of Fukushima via audiovisual footage," Suga said.

© KYODO

©2021 GPlusMedia Inc.

12 Comments
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And nothing else that was promised them by the IOCLDPJOC since 2013 !

“Fukushima people find ray of hope in Japan's softball win” -

6 ( +10 / -4 )

Fukushima people find ray of hope …

Fukushimans? Fukushimites? Fukushima people.

-5 ( +2 / -7 )

Let’s acknowledge Fukushima with our support during this time of great betrayal by the IOCLDPJOC!

Downvotes Today” will sponsored by (allegedly) the IOCLDPJOC & other related sponsors against free speech and fair & democratic elections” -

1 ( +5 / -4 )

I wonder who in the propaganda ministry is paying folks to write and publish articles like this?

Japanese are not going to read it, so it's for the foreign audience, and everyone realizes it's just BS PR.

17 ( +18 / -1 )

YubaruToday 08:07 am JST

I wonder who in the propaganda ministry is paying folks to write and publish articles like this?

Japanese are not going to read it, so it's for the foreign audience, and everyone realizes it's just BS PR.

As Noam Chomsky said on a podcast last week, "We live in a world of total illusion and fantasy."

14 ( +15 / -1 )

Kyodo interviewing elderly softball officials for positive quotes about softball events in Tohoku. Then over to our Dear Leader (current support 35%) for a line about "recovery of Fukushima". No wonder young people sit in the street drinking chu hai.

14 ( +15 / -1 )

I think that this ray won't last long. At least to the point when the radioactive water will be dumped to the ocean.

At least now they can enjoy something.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

Utterly Depressing!

5 ( +5 / -0 )

You mean they can leave their temporary shelters finally? That kind of hope?

3 ( +4 / -1 )

A student of mine in Fukushima said she couldn't care less about that game just because it was held in her prefecture. She has a lot of anger about being abandoned by the Abe govt. and hoodwinking the world by using her region's name to get the Games. She knows what's up.

6 ( +7 / -1 )

I have been watching Softball games played in Fukushima since yesterday. I am really happy that they did not cancel the games. Women's Softball is one of my favorite games, and Japanese pitcher Yukiko Ueno is my favorite player. She is such an inspiration. Her skills led Japanese team to win a gold medal in 2008 Olympics, beating US team.

At the 2008 Summer Olympics, the Japanese prized pitcher, Yukiko Ueno, shut down the seemingly unstoppable American batters. Spectators labeled her the star of the series. With her challenging fast ball, the 26-year-old right hander threw 413 pitches in three full games over two days. In the game against the United States she threw strike after strike with speed and movement even though she had a huge blister on her pitching hand....

In the Athens Olympics in 2004, Yukiko Ueno entered the history books by pitching the first perfect game in Olympic history, leading Japan to a 2–0 win over China.

She is the reason why many young Japanese kids are drawn to the game of Softball. Miu Goto is one of them. She was only 7 years old when she saw Ueno's team won the gold medal in 2008. She played today in the Fukushima as a relief pitcher after Ueno for the Japanese team, shutting down powerful Mexican team in last two innings, helping Japan win 3-4. It was such a great, inspirational game.

I am happy to see Olympic games are being played despite obvious problems.

-5 ( +1 / -6 )

They are quite easily to satisfy there. I very much doubt you can have with that softball win’s ray of hope any job interview in that prefecture or have your supermarket shopping bills paid.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

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