IWAKI, Fukushima Prefecture--A symbolic figure of the efforts to rebuild in Fukushima after last year's disaster, Yukari Maluhia, leader of the famed "Fukushima Hula Girls," retired after a final performance on June 3.
Maluhia, 29, delayed her retirement to lead the troupe on a well-publicized national tour after last year's Great East Japan Earthquake and accident at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.
During two performances by the Hula Girls troupe on June 3, Maluhia performed solo numbers.
"I feel very happy to have been able to spend 10 years with the troupe members and to have danced at such a wonderful show today," she said at a ceremony to mark her retirement.
Maluhia will be succeeded by Rie Omori, her deputy. Maluhia became the leader of the Hula Girls dance troupe at the Spa Resort Hawaiians in Iwaki, Fukushima Prefecture, in April 2009 and was to have stepped down at the end of May 2011. She had already begun preparations to pass the lei to her successor when the quake, tsunami and nuclear accident struck Fukushima Prefecture on March 11, 2011.
With the Spa Resort Hawaiians theme park damaged by the quake, Maluhia felt she could not step down as originally planned. Instead, she led 27 dancers, including some who themselves were victims of the natural disasters, on a tour of 125 locations both in Japan and abroad to publicize recovery efforts being made in Fukushima.
The theme park fully reopened on Feb. 8, after almost one year of reconstruction work, and the Hula Girls returned to their home stage.
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