One of the claims made in the bid is that the games will be a celebration of and a contribution to the recovery of the Tohoku from the effects of the March 2011 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear meltdowns. Considering that the Tokyo Olympics 2.0 would be held eight years from now and almost entirely within a small area inside the TMD, the association with the recovery effort seems a stretch. The proposal has two or perhaps three of the preliminary soccer matches played in Sendai, but otherwise the link between the Olympics and the Tohoku disasters will be tenuous to the point of stimulating nervous laughter.
I had a chance to hear Inose Naoki, now officially the governor of the TMD, offer some more concrete examples of how the TMD was contributing to the Tohoku recovery effort. The TMD has dispatch hundreds of TMD bureaucrats on short stays to help administer the recovering areas (many prefectures are doing this, most prominently Aichi Prefecture) and is training and housing applicants for school teaching positions in the Tohoku.
One of the programs Inose described sounded trivial but was in fact important. The TMD has issued coupons offering discounts on day trips or overnight stays in the Aizu-Wakamatsu area of Fukushima Prefecture. Whilst several towns the coast region of Fukushima are uninhabitable due to the Fukushima Dai'ichi nuclear power station disaster, and vast areas of coastal and central Fukushima are contaminated with nuclear fallout, the interior area around the city of Aizu-Wakamatsu is relatively contamination-free. However, as the region is inside Fukushima Prefecture, the largest of Japan's prefectures, it has seen its tourist visits fall through the floor. Since Aizu-Wakamatsu area was dependent on tourism, the false association with Fukushima Dai'ichi has sledgehammered the local economy.
In the wake of the TMD's efforts to promote a return to the area (for a of slideshow from my one visit to Aizu-Wakamatsu, in 2009, click Here) the national broadcast network NHK has a new Taiga Dorama series, Yae no Sakura, set in Aizu-Wakamatsu. Like most Taiga dramas, the current series, airing every Sunday night for the rest of this year, is strongly tied to local, prefectural and NHK-led national efforts to promote tourism to the locales in which the story takes place.
Learning the lesson brought home by last year's calamitous series on Taira no Kiyomori (one senryu of autumn last year had Prime Minister Noda Yoshihiko musing, "No matter how bad my popularity ratings are, they are still better than those for that Taiga Drama series on Taira no Kiyomori...") the main character, like the protagonists of the recent smash hits Atsuhime and Gon...Himetachi no Sengoku is a plucky young female historical figure.
For some reason watching young women fight disdain, prejudice and adversity is more fun than watching middle-aged men sitting around shouting at one another.
Of course, Yae no Sakura takes "plucky" to a whole new level, as the heroine is Yamamoto Yae, the bakumatsu badass with a Spencer
In the NHK depiction, the decidedly nonconformist Yae mutters the Aizu-Wakamatsu motto naranu koto wa naranu mono desu ("that which must not be shall not be") with contemptuous irony.
Not so salutory was private broadcast network TBS' attempt at a costume drama contribution to Aizu-Wakamatsu tourism, Byakkotai. If Yamamoto Yae's story is one to remember, the story of the Byakkotai (White Tiger Company) is a story one wishes everyone would forget. The teenagers of the White Tiger Company managed to make nothing of their brief lives, winning fame only for committing suicide upon the belief, mistaken as it turned, that Aizu-Wakamatsu's castle had fallen to the armies of the Meiji Emperor.
Just to make the already horrid (visiting the reconstructed Aizu-Wakamatsu castle and seeing the large portraits each of the young men under moody lighting makes one ill) story more wretched, TBS made no attempts to hide selfish goal of producing yet another does-the-country-with-its-high-suicide-rate-really-need-yet-another-glorification-of-suicide-as-beautiful-and-brave drama: the promotion of the latest generation of precious jimusho boys and boy band wannabees. (Link)
For the love of Fukushima, give me the girl with the gun!