Fukushima, JAPAN: Japanese Princess Hisako, Reconstruction Minister Hiromichi Watanabe, Kuwaiti Ambassador to Japan Hasan Zaman and other officials attend the ceremony. – KUNA

Fukushima, JAPAN: Japan’s national soccer facilities considered as a symbol of reconstruction from the 2011 disaster fully reopened yesterday through a massive restoration project, in which Kuwait has made great contributions. With attendance of Japanese Princess Hisako, Reconstruction Minister Hiromichi Watanabe, Kuwaiti Ambassador to Japan Hasan Mohammad Zaman and other dignitaries, a ceremony was held to celebrate the full resumption of J-Village, one of the country’s biggest soccer complexes in the northeastern region.

The complex straddling towns of Naraha and Hirono was forced to close in 2011 due to the magnitude 9 earthquake and tsunami that left nearly 19,000 people dead or missing, as well as the ensuing nuclear meltdowns. Located just 20 km away from the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, the facilities had served as an operational base to battle the nuclear accident. As a result, J-Village’s functions as a national soccer-training center had been suspended until last July, when it partially reopened after a seven-year hiatus.

Following the catastrophe, upon directives of His Highness the Amir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, Kuwait extended the donation of 5 million barrels of crude oil worth about $500 million to help post-quake reconstruction in the three hardest-hit prefectures including Fukushima. Home to the damaged nuclear plant, Fukushima Prefecture has been using its allocated share of JPY 15.4 billion ($138 million) in various projects, such as support to small and medium-sized companies affected by the nuclear accident, restoration of cultural properties and rebuilding homes of disaster victims.

According to the Fukushima prefectural government, in carrying out the restoration of J-Village, the prefecture utilized Kuwait’s donation of about JPY 3 billion ($27 million) to construct a new eight-story accommodation building and pursue promotional activities for J-Village’s reopening, including yesterday’s ceremony. In the complex, a plaque engraving the gratitude to Kuwait is displayed, which says, “The project is made possible by the donation from Kuwait provided through the Japanese Red Cross Society for the recovery from the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami in 2011.”

In his speech at the ceremony, Fukushima Governor Masao Uchibori explained that J-Village first opened in 1997 as Japan’s first national football training center and has worked to promote sport and activate the local region. It was used as a training camp for the Japan national football team for the FIFA World Cup, for various national tournaments and for the training camps of various top teams, attracting some 500,000 people annua