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Roses saved from closed garden in Fukushima blooming again in Toyama

This picture taken on Aug. 25, 2018 shows Shunichi Masui, who is trying to recreate the closed Futaba rose garden of Fukushima Prefecture inside his Himi Aiyama Garden in Toyama Prefecture. (Mainichi)

HIMI, Toyama -- Roses transplanted from a garden closed due to the 2011 nuclear disaster in Fukushima Prefecture are blooming again in a park here, thanks to people who are eager to cheer up evacuees from the triple core meltdowns that rendered wide areas around the nuclear plant difficult to live.

The plants are from the Futaba rose garden, which was located only eight kilometers west of the Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant. "Lover's Heart" is a variety original to the garden and the only surviving species from the facility. "Old Rose," which had been popular at the Fukushima garden, is also planted in the new home at the Himi Aiyama Garden in the city of Himi in Toyama Prefecture in central Japan.

The facility in the town of Futaba in eastern Fukushima was established in 1968 by Katsuhide Okada, 74, and had some 7,000 roses of 750 varieties across its 60,000-square-meter premises, attracting some 50,000 visitors every year. But the entire town of Futaba came under evacuation orders following the 2011 accident, and Okada had no choice but to shutter his life-long project.

Lover's Heart, the only surviving variety saved from the Futaba rose garden that closed due to the 2011 nuclear disaster near the facility, now blooms at the Himi Aiyama Garden in Toyama Prefecture on Aug. 25, 2018. (Mainichi)

The garden's reputation, however, lived on, and domestic and international rose lovers praising its beauty include Prince William of Britain, who wrote a letter to the owner in 2015.

Okada, who says the roses are "like my children," evacuated to Ibaraki Prefecture south of Fukushima, but continued to visit his garden annually, clad in a protective suit. Most of the plants there withered because providing daily care for them was impossible. The only kind that survived the hardship was Lover's Heart, and Okada took the plant with him and raised it at his new place.

Learning about the tough situation Okada faced, his fellow rose lovers extended helping hands. Horticulturist Masayo Imai, 71, of Tokyo's Itabashi Ward, and Chieko Sakamoto, 69, who heads a rose lovers' club in Fukui in central Japan, consulted with Shunichi Masui, 71, who runs the Himi Aiyama Garden.

Imai donated Old Rose, while Sakamoto brought Lover's Heart given by Okada and some 150 other rose varieties to the facility in Himi, some 350 kilometers west of Futaba.

Masui set aside a 1,000-square-meter field inside the garden, planting the flowers in 2017. He christened the corner "The valley of Old Rose," and roses began to bloom for the first time in March this year, and colorful flowers in white, red and yellow adorned the area at their peak time from May through June. Lover's Heart is expected to continue flowering until January next year.

Masui said he wants to cheer up Fukushima people by raising the roses. Okada, in turn, holds on to his hope of revitalization of the disaster-hit area by watching the roses in Toyama.

(Japanese original by Yasutoshi Tsurumi, Toyama Bureau)

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