The Fukushima nuclear disaster of 2011 killed 154 people and forced residents of the Ukedo district in Namie, Fukushima to evacuate. Shortly after the disaster, Shigeko Sasaki reached out to young dancers who had evacuated. They formed a folk arts preservation group and began practicing a traditional rice planting dance. Since then, the young evacuees have been bringing hope to the area by performing authentic folk dances.
The group has performed almost 40 times all across Japan, including at the Meiji Jingu shrine in Tokyo and the Izumo Taisha shrine in Shimane Prefecture. In 2012, they revived a local festival from the Ukedo district and performed throughout the city of Fukushima. The festival has been held every year since then and has become a symbol of optimism and resilience for evacuees.
On August 8, 16 dancers ranging in age from elementary to high school students will perform at Ise Shrine in Mie Prefecture. The dance serves as part of a prayer for the reconstruction of the area devastated by the nuclear disaster. Sasaki, now the vice chair of the preservation group, says “Although we’ve been through many hardships, our dream of dedicating the dance at Ise Shrine is close to reality. This is all thanks to everyone who has supported us.”