A car carrying Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko runs on National Road No. 6 in Minami-Soma, Fukushima Prefecture, on June 10. Bags containing radioactive soil are piled up along the road.
FUKUSHIMA–Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko passed through a “difficult-to-return zone” near the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant on June 10 on their last visit to the disaster area before abdication.
The car carrying the imperial couple was running on an expressway from Iwaki to Minami-Soma in Fukushima Prefecture when it slowed down at a point 5.8 kilometers from the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, according to the chamberlain of the Imperial Household Agency.
An Imperial Guard official accompanying the couple explained the location of the plant, operated by Tokyo Electric Power Co.
Although the nuclear plant could not be seen through the rainy weather, Akihito and Michiko looked toward its direction without saying a word.
After leaving the expressway, the car ran on National Road No. 6, which is lined on both sides with bags filled with radioactive soil and debris. The couple apparently saw them from inside the vehicle.
The emperor and empress attended a national tree-planting festival held in the prefecture on that day.
On the night of June 9, the couple watched hula girls’ dances at the Spa Resort Hawaiians in Iwaki where they stayed.
The resort was shut down because of damage from the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami that struck on March 11, 2011.
The hula girls lost their place to dance, but they toured Japan and became a symbol of reconstruction from the disaster.
Rie Igari, who had led the dancing team for four years, served as a guide for the imperial couple.
With Akihito and Michiko frequently clapping, the hula girls performed dances to three songs, including “Hana wa Saku” (Flowers bloom), a song designed to support rebuilding efforts.
“The emperor and the empress repeatedly visited Fukushima (Prefecture) after the disaster, and their visits promoted reconstruction,” said Haruna Suzuki, captain of the dance team. “Without ever forgetting our feelings of gratitude, we will continue to work to help reconstruction.”