High school students Minami Nagaike and Anju Matsumoto, who had to evacuate from Fukushima Prefecture after last year's disaster, are coming home, thanks to the hula.
The second Hula Girls Koshien contest, featuring entries from throughout Japan, will be held on Aug. 19 in Iwaki, Fukushima Prefecture, which was hit hard by the March 11 Great East Japan Earthquake.
Among 15 participating high schools, the team of Ayase High School in Kanagawa Prefecture is led by the two senior students from Fukushima.
Nagaike, 17, evacuated from a tsunami-hit district in Iwaki, and Matsumoto, 17, moved from Naraha, which was designated as a no-entry zone due to the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.
“I’m working hard in a place far from my hometown,” Matsumoto said. “I want to tell everyone that high school students in Kanagawa support Fukushima.”
Nagaike's hometown of Iwaki is famed for being home to the resort and theme park Spa Resort Hawaiians and its dance troupe, the Hula Girls.
“Iwaki is the town of hula,” Nagaike said. “I want to maintain the sense that I am a resident of Iwaki.”
The two girls, who are close friends, were classmates at Iwaki Sogo High School. They were supposed to participate in the first Hula Girls Koshien competition, to be held in Iwaki in March last year. But the disaster occurred 12 days before the planned contest, forcing the postponement of the event.
The two girls separately evacuated to Kanagawa Prefecture, and both have since been attending Ayase High School.
The first competition was eventually held in Tokyo in September. The two danced on stage as members of the Iwaki Sogo High’s team, and the squad’s performance was praised with an award for excellence.
In May, the two girls found out that the second competition would be held in Iwaki.
They decided to compete in the event as members of an Ayase High team. But three or more members are required for a school to enter. So they put up handwritten posters in classrooms to find others willing to participate. Three first- and second-year students came forward.
Nagaike and Matsumoto had learned the hula at Iwaki Sogo High from senior students who had much experience with the dance. But with no instructors available, they have been practicing together, recalling their training in Fukushima.
Watching hula videos on the Internet, the members of the Ayase High team have also been exploring incorporating what they call “movements giving stronger impressions.”
They made their hula costumes on their own from materials they bought at a 100-yen shop, where every item is priced at 100 yen ($1.27).
In Kanagawa, the two girls often talk to other team members and their friends about the goodness of their hometowns--the beautiful sea viewed from their homes, the rich natural surroundings and the warm people.
The two said they are looking forward to telling other team members in Iwaki, “See, you now know what we said is true.”
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