Find constructive solutions to difficult situations. Convey the ideas and thoughts that connect the future of the village to the youth.

Worked on the evacuation of all residents of the village after the nuclear power plant accident as mayor.
Experience and lessons learned will be passed on to the youth.

Mr. Norio Kanno ran a diary farm in the village, worked as a commissioned director of the community center, and served as village mayor for 6 terms, 24 years. He negotiated on the front line over the government’s evacuation order for all the residents of the village following radioactive contamination caused by the Great East Japan Earthquake while promoting reconstruction of the village under the philosophy of the local word “madei,” meaning polite and wholehearted. He drew a roadmap for village reconstruction while protecting the lives and livelihoods of the residents. After completing his terms, he lives in Iitate Village, delivering lectures and writing. Young officials from the Ministry of the Environment, with whom he negotiated after the earthquake, visit him every year, and at Asubito Fukushima, the organization in Minamisoma City that provides human resource development, etc., he delivers lectures for companies in the Tokyo metropolitan area. Why are so many people eager to listen to Mr. Kanno’s words even after he left the office of the village mayor? “It is not enough to just convey the experience of the earthquake. What do we learn from it? It is important what lessons we learn from this accident that can never ever happen again.” he says.

Mr. Kanno’s home where officials from the Ministry of the Environment and others visit to learn. Signboard from his dairy farming days by the entrance

To protect the lives of village residents and envision its future,
decision was made to evacuate to locations within an hour's drive.

Iitate Village is located within 30 to 50 km northwest of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. The village was not designated as a evacuation zone just after the accident, except for some areas, but later radioactive contamination was found and all the village residents were forced to evacuate. It may indeed be safe to evacuate to distant locations, but that would break the community network, which might make the reconstruction difficult.  Mr. Kanno decided to evacuate the village residents to locations within an hour’s drive from Iitate Village, considering evacuation lives and post-evacuation reconstruction as there was some time before the evacuation order was issued. He also negotiated with the government tenaciously and obtained their approval for the village to continue to operate the special nursing home for the elderly, where many elderly people have the risk of moving, and the plants including KIKUCHI SEISAKUSHO CO. LTD., which support employment and the economy of the village as the annual radiation dose indoors is below the national standard of 20 mSv per year. He recalls that he received a lot of slander, saying “What do you think about villagers’ lives?” during his term.

Mr. Kanno tells the story of how he decided on the village’s evacuation policy even though he felt torn between the government and residents.

Envision the future of the village with fairness and selflessness in mind.
This is where there are clues to survive difficult times.

Nevertheless, the decision and efforts Mr. Kanno made are still supporting the reconstruction of the village even after his retirement. Residents began returning to the village after the evacuation order was lifted in 2017, with the exception of some districts, and approximately 1,500 residents currently live in the village as of June 2023. The return rate is around 25%, but it is still higher than that of other areas that were designated as evacuation zones. In addition to that, many people continue to be involved in the village by commuting to work, etc., and approximately 150 people have moved to the village under the migration and settlement program. Mr. Kanno protected the lives and livelihoods of the residents and drew the roadmap for the future of the village while feeling torn between the government and residents. What has supported his decision? He says, “I hung the words “fairness and selflessness” on the wall of the village mayor’s office. It means finding constructive agreement points beyond positions and interests. Solutions are not either black or white. There are a number of solutions between them.” It is important to see the big picture and make decisions with a sense of balance. The efforts he made and how Iitate Village is now give us some hints for surviving difficult times.

Photo when he was mayor. With the calligraphy of “fairness and selflessness” on the wall.

52 Sasu, Sasu, Iitate-mura, Soma-gun, Fukushima