An excellent background story on Iwaki FC, as featured recently on the website JLeagueRegista.
There is a scene in the popular Japanese movie “Hula Girls”, a film in which a group of miners wives/relatives decide to form a hula dancing group to aid the development of a Hawaiian resort in a town faced with looming unemployment, in which to help the city’s dream of becoming a tourist destination Iwaki is presented with some palm trees. It doesn’t occur to some people that, with Iwaki being located in north eastern Japan, the palm trees might struggle to survive the harsh winter. It takes a group of people, led by one person with drive, backed up by another group of people with the means to help, to help the situation by rounding up stoves and fuel. Therefore giving the trees some much needed heat that, ultimately, helped them grow and survive. For Iwaki residents, overcoming obstacles, however big or small – or indeed catastrophic – is just something they do.
That particular episode was back in the 60’s, at a time when the area of Iwaki in Fukushima prefecture was struggling to cope with the dramatic change in the landscape, both economic & social. Another event was to come along in March 2011, which would test the foundations (literally) of what Iwaki was made of. The Great Eastern Japan Earthquake & Tsunami was another hammer-blow, and one from which it is only just recovering. The Hawaiian Center on which the film “Hula Girls” is based on (or Spa Resort Hawaiians to give it its current correct title) is inland and thus out of reach of the tsunami which devastated the eastern coast of Japan on that fateful March day. But parts of the city of Iwaki were in reach of the tsunami and that – coupled with the initial tremors – saw over 250 people from Iwaki lose their lives.
But that was just the beginning. The menacing specter of the Fukushima Daichi nuclear power station (a name that, unfortunately, we’ve all become too familiar with) started to creak, leak and before long it was a full on environmental catastrophe. Places around Fukushima prefecture were told to evacuate as the radiation levels weren’t safe for human inhabitants. Iwaki city itself was declared ok, but the news had, understandably, spooked a lot of people. And with a lot of people turned off visiting anywhere near Fukushima for a long while after the initial reactor disaster, Iwaki, and Spa Resort Hawaiians, struggled to survive.
But survive they did. The Hawaiian Center took their show around the country, playing to packed houses that wanted to show their solidarity with the stricken area, and slowly but surely, people began to revisit the area. The numbers aren’t as high as they once were, but it is a start.
The name of Iwaki City has, as detailed, gone through peaks and troughs of reputation. From the depths of the mining industry collapse to its reinvention as a Hawaiian cultural centre, to March 11, 2011. It would be easy to linger on the troughs, to forget about it and to just let it find its own way back to relevance. But a man and a company from far afield, a situation that in essence isn’t so different to the one that occurred in the film, wants to take the reins of a project to catapult the city to national relevance.
Repost with permission of JLeagueRegista.