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Once evacuated, Fukushima Prefecture town gets its long-awaited supermarket

The Yomiuri Shimbun

Customers flock to the fresh seafood section, where the local specialty surf clams are sold, at the newly opened Aeon Namie in Namie, Fukushima Prefecture, on Sunday.

The Yomiuri Shimbun A Fukushima Prefecture town, completely evacuated after the nuclear accident at Tokyo Electric Power Company Holding’s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, on Sunday saw the opening of its first supermarket since evacuation orders were partially lifted in March 2017.

The town of Namie welcomed the opening of a branch of Chiba-based major supermarket chain Aeon Retail. About 300 townspeople braved the rain to see the grand opening, which started at 9 a.m. on Sunday.

Namie had seen its population drop from 21,434 prior to the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake to just 1,057, or about 5 percent, as of the end of June. Although there are two convenience stores in the town, many shops remain closed, making it a hardship for residents who had returned to their homes.

The Aeon store, located along National Highway Route 6 near the town hall, has a floor space of 881 square meters. Everything from fresh food to pharmaceutical items are among the 12,000 products lining the shelves, and customers can also order delivery of furniture.

On sale at the fresh seafood section were surf clams, a local delicacy procured in Soma in the prefecture, as well as sea bass brought into the restored fishing port of Ukedo, which had been damaged in the tsunami. About 450,000 people a year, including residents and reconstruction workers, are expected to visit the store.

“I’m really thankful [for the store] because my wife can’t drive after she returned her license,” said an 89-year-old man, who said he had had to drive over 30 minutes to a supermarket in the neighboring city of Minamisoma after returning from evacuation to his Namie home. “It’s nice to be able to buy fresh vegetables.”

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