Futaba Town near Fukushima nuclear plant site holds ceremony for 20-year-olds

A ceremony for people turning 20 years old this fiscal year was held in Futaba Town, site of the damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.

Twelve of 58 people of that age registered as residents of the town gathered for the ceremony on Saturday. It was held at the newly constructed town hall in front of Futaba Station. These young adults were in the second grade at the time of the 2011 earthquake and nuclear accident.

All residents in Futaba Town were evacuated following the nuclear accident. Last August, an evacuation order was lifted for parts of areas designated as "no-entry zones." Futaba Town was the last among the 12 municipalities ordered to evacuate to allow residents to return.

Town mayor Izawa Shiro said he was encouraged to learn that the young people had overcome their hardships and grown both physically and mentally.

Hayashi Yuya, a vocational school student living in Sendai City, gave a speech on behalf of the participants. He said the new generation has a big role to play in passing on the legacy of the disaster. But he added they shouldn't feel pressured or have to bear the responsibility.

Hayashi went on to say he wants to create a society with his peers that future generations can be proud of.

A student from Iwaki City who attended the ceremony said it struck home that she had turned 20 when she was reunited with familiar faces.

A university student from Miyagi Prefecture said he is studying civil engineering and would like to take part in reconstruction efforts.

The official age of adulthood in Japan was lowered from 20 to 18 last April, but many municipalities continue to hold congratulatory ceremonies for people around the age of 20.