On July 25th Benihana on King’s Road hosted an event celebrating the one year anniversary of the official friendship between Chelsea and Kensington and Motomiya City. The purpose of the event was to mark the past and recognise the help the borough offered the area after the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake.
Among the VIPs in attendance at the event were Gigyo Takamatsu, Mayor of Motomiya. Toshiyuki Hatano, from the Japanese Embassy. Yoshio Mitsuyama, of the Fukushima Prefectural Association in the UK. Mamoru Shoda, General Manager of Benihana UK. Toshio Suzuki, Executive Chef of Benihana UK, and Naomi Suzuki, Singer & MC.
The Earthquake was a magnitude 9.0 event 23 km under the ocean which triggered a massive tsunami. It was the most powerful earthquake ever recorded in Japan, and the fourth most powerful earthquake in the world since modern record-keeping began in 1900. 15,896 deaths, 6,157 injured, and 2,537 people missing. It also resulted in a nuclear meltdown which triggered the evacuations of more than 200,000 people.
The sad story of that disaster does have a happy ending though. The memorial event placed a great emphasis on how Fukushima prefecture has bounced back in a big way. Life has returned to normal and Motomiya City will be hosting events at its venues as part of the 2020 Summer Olympics.
The future looked bright for the prefecture as images were shown of a British style garden called “Prince William’s Park” built in Motomiya City to commemorate the assistance received from the UK in the wake of the disaster. Britain’s Prince William visited the garden in February 2015 for a firsthand look at areas hit by the earthquake and tsunami. He shared some time with local children and planted an English oak sapling in the park which bears his name.
The memorial event was not only about honoring the past, but also about celebrate the future. To that end it brought students together for a cultural exchange from Motomiya High school and Shirasawa High school in Japan, and the U.K. students came from various places of Japanese interest in the borough such as the Budokwai Martial Arts School, who are coincidently celebrating their 100th anniversary this year and are the first judo club in Europe. Friendships were forged and many exchanged email addresses to keep in touch.
An English Samurai
The event was also attended by Michael Jay, a British Airways pilot who became the first foreigner to ever participate in Japan’s Wild Horse Race, called the Nomaoi. Jay spoke about his many positive experiences in Japan and was available after to take questions from the students and event goers.
The race takes place in July and is a celebration of Samurai tradition which takes place in Minami-Soma, one of the towns that was worst hit by the Tsunami in March 2011. It also only 25 km away from the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. The event was held even in 2011, and it continues on, serving to show that life has returned to normal and is going on. Over 400 mounted warriors in full battle dress take part in the three-day-long event.The Nomaoi dates from the tenth century, it’s only been held at its present location since 1323, when the Soma Clan moved into in the area.
Photos: (Top) The many attendees of the event at Benihana, King’s Road. (Side) Michael Jay, attending the event in Samurai armor. (Photos by Michael A. Kolarov, ©KCW Today)