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Fukushima 'Hula Girls' to go on nationwide tour again to encourage disaster-hit areas

"Hula Girls" dance team captain Aulii Haruna, center, and other staff members of Spa Resort Hawaiians pose for a commemorative photo at a sendoff ceremony for a nationwide caravan tour at the facility in the city of Iwaki, Fukushima Prefecture, on May 26, 2019. (Mainichi/Naoki Watanabe)

IWAKI, Fukushima -- The "Hula Girls" dancing team from Spa Resort Hawaiians here, which was damaged by the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake, is set to embark on a nationwide caravan tour for the first time in eight years.

The team traveled throughout Japan just after the 2011 disaster and often served as mascots for disaster-hit areas. On this tour, they will visit areas damaged by the 2016 Kumamoto Earthquake and torrential rains in western Japan in 2018.

Former "Hula Girls" dance team members of Spa Resort Hawaiians, who went on tour just after the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake, give a performance at the facility in the city of Iwaki, Fukushima Prefecture, on May 26, 2019. (Mainichi/Naoki Watanabe)

The resort's buildings suffered cracks in the 2011 quake and the facility was forced to temporarily close for about half a year. During this period, the Hula Girls traveled across the country with the aim of cheering up Fukushima Prefecture, which suffered heavy damage from the meltdown of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station. The dancers toured 125 places in 26 prefectures in Japan as well as in South Korea and conducted 247 performances. Among their destinations was Kumamoto, where they were warmly welcomed by local people.

This tour, the team plans to start their performances on June 21 in the city of Kumamoto. The Hula Girls will perform in about 20 places including the Kumamoto Prefecture town of Mashiki, which was severely damaged by the 2016 quake, and the Hiroshima Prefecture city of Kure, which was struck by torrential rains in 2018. At each venue, members of the team will interact with local residents by giving a 30-minute show and hula dance lessons.

Team captain Aulii Haruna, from Iwaki, began working for the company just after the 2011 disaster. Due to the damage at the resort, she practiced at other venues such as a meeting room in the women's dormitory. "We have received a lot of encouragement and support since the 2011 disaster. We want to express our gratitude and give energetic performances with big smiles," said Haruna.

Following a sendoff ceremony held on May 26, former members who toured in 2011 gave a performance in front of about 1,300 spectators to music used on the previous tour. Yukari Kato, the leader of the 2011 tour, encouraged the present members, saying "Give your best and don't forget to have fun!"

(Japanese original by Naoki Watanabe, Fukushima Bureau)

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