A Hawaiian theme park that propped up the economy of a rural Japanese town in Fukushima prefecture for 45 years was forced to close after the March 11 earthquake. Almost a year later, the hula girls have returned.
The Spa Resort Hawaiians in Iwaki will open its indoor pools and host wedding parties and Hawaiian luaus in a new hotel from Feb. 8. Structural damage from the magnitude-9 temblor and concerns about radiation leaking from the Dai-Ichi nuclear power plant 60 kilometers (37 miles) to the north closed the resort, a semi-roofed complex six times the size of Tokyo Dome and surrounded by rice fields and hot springs.
The spa, featured in the award-winning 2006 film “Hula Girls,” offers a rare example of a community bouncing back from a catastrophe that left almost 20,000 dead or missing in the Tohoku region of northeast Japan, and forced about 160,000 to evacuate areas within 30 kilometers of the plant. The disaster accelerated a trend toward shrinking and aging populations in the countryside even as big cities grow.