Disaster-ravaged schoolgirl hula contest held in Tokyo


The Hula Girls

TOKYO (majirox news) — A national high school hula competition postponed because of the March 11 disasters was finally held in Tokyo’s Akihabara district on Sept. 4.

The First All-Japan National High School Hula Girls Contest was scheduled to be held March 23 in Iwaki, Fukushima prefecture, on March 23, but put off due to the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear crisis that damaged the area.

Iwaki is famous for its hula dancing, which revitalized the town after coal mines were shut decades ago, and formed the basis for the award-winning 2006 feature film Hula Girls.

“When energy sources use shifted from being coal-based to oil in the Showa 40s (mid-1960s to mid-1970s), the first hula girls rescued the town (of Iwaki),” Kenichi Yoshida, a member of the contest’s organizing committee, said. “We want to start a new revitalization story with high school girls playing the lead role.”

The contest gathers high school hula dancing teams from across the country and they compete to become national champion. The first contest attracted participants from 13 schools, most of which are in Fukushima prefecture, but there were also representatives from Tokyo, Saitama and Kagoshima, the latter taking the top prize.

Hula Girls, the movie, was based on the story of the Spa Resort Hawaiians, a hot-spring resort in the Fukushima prefecture town of Joban, an old mining town. When the mine forming the center of the town’s industry was closed in the 1960s, the town responded by setting up the resort featuring hula dancers to become a tourism-centered economy. The plan was wildly successful and the resort continues to be among Japan’s most popular domestic tourist attractions.

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