Yae no Sakura, NHK Taiga Drama 2013

This year’s year-long, weekly NHK Taiga Drama TV series will start airing tonight on Jan. 6. Titled “Yae no Sakura,” it’s about a woman warrior named Yae Niijima (1845-1932) from Aizu-Wakamatsu, Fukushima Prefecture. Aizu-Wakamatsu is famous for Tsuruga Castle (photo) and as the site of a Boshin War battle between pro-Emperor forces and pro-shogun forces who lost. Yae was on the latter side. After the war, she fought for equality for women and mastered English well enough to write one of Kyoto’s earliest guidebooks in English. (I wonder if a copy is still available.)

Her husband Joseph Hardy Neesima or Jo Niijima had studied in the US and founded a Christian school which became the prestigious Doshisha University in Kyoto. Yae will be played by actress Haruka Ayase. I remember her in the TV series “JIN,” about a brain surgeon who went back in time to the Edo Period. She was quite good (for a former bikini idol).

Everyone hopes that this Taiga Drama series will help bring back tourists to Fukushima. Aizu-Wakamatsu is one of Japan’s best provincial tourist cities, right up there with Sapporo, Sendai, Kanazawa, Matsue, Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Kochi, Kagoshima, and Naha. It has many attractions and historical sites within a small area. The tourist infrastructure is well developed and I liked the convenient tourist shuttle bus stopping at the major sights. I highly recommend a visit to Aizu. More about the drama: http://www.japantimes.co.jp/text/fd20130104r1.html

More photos of Aizu-Wakamatsu here.

Fukushima Prefecture PR fair

Fukushima Fair

Actor Nishida Toshiyuki and Fukushima Prefectural Governor Sato Yuhei hold a talk show.

Fukushima Prefecture held a PR fair (がんばろうふくしま!大交流フェア) at Tokyo International Forum on March 20, 2012 to promote itself. Lots of stage entertainment, food booths, mascot characters, and talk shows. Famous actor and Fukushima-native Nishida Toshiyuki and Fukushima Governor Sato Yuhei also appeared together. Enjoyed it. My video below:

Spa Resort Hawaiians grand re-opening

Spa Resort Hawaiians in Iwaki, Fukushima is a Hawaiian-themed, hot spring and water park that suffered heavy earthquake damage on March 11, 2011. They partially reopened in Oct. 2011.

Finally on Feb. 8, 2012, they fully re-opened after the water park was repaired. The main attraction is their hula girls who have been traveling around Japan in the meantime to promote Fukushima. The popular comedy movie “Hula Girl” in 2006 also made them famous again.

Visit Spa Resort Hawaiians.

Japan Times article about the reopening: http://www.japantimes.co.jp/text/nn20120210n1.html