Japan's Tsunami-hit Aquarium Opens Kuwait Memorial Garden

IWAKI, Japan, Feb 22 (KUNA) - Japan's tsunami-stricken marine science museum on Saturday inaugurated Kuwait and Fukushima Friendship Memorial Japanese Garden/Park, which was built with gratitude to Kuwait for its unstinting support as the first step of acceleration of the reconstruction process from the 2011 earthquake-tsunami disaster.

An opening ceremony for the memorial garden was held at Aquamarine Fukushima in the northeastern coastal city of Iwaki, with attendance of Kuwaiti Ambassador to Japan Abdulrahman Al-Otaibi and his wife Jamilah Al-Otaibi, Kuwait Institute for Scientific Research (KISR) Director General Dr. Naji Al-Mutairi and other Kuwaiti and Japanese dignitaries.

The 5,000 sqm-garden features such spots as a stone monument carved the word "salam (peace)" in Arabic, a pond and mote representing desert oasis and a greenhouse that accommodates an exhibition reproducing desert oasis environment and Kuwaiti flora and fauna.

With Kuwait's financial aid, Aquamarine Fukushima has been working on the projects to upgrade its facilities and improve visitor services, and to contribute to the recovery of the region. The plan includes a mountain village project, an initiative to develop the museum's outdoor nature experience areas.

During his state visit to Japan in March 2012, His Highness the Amir announced the USD 3 million grant for the restoration of the severely-damaged aquarium and the promotion of science and technology, which gave a great encouragement to the people of Fukushima and deepened friendship between the two sides.

In his speech at the opening ceremony, Fukushima Governor Yuhei Sato expressed gratitude to His Highness the Amir for the grant for the rehabilitation of Aquamarine Fukushima and Kuwait's support since the disaster hit the prefecture. "Aquamarine Fukushima is recognized as a symbol of recovery of Fukushima Prefecture, and the newly-opened memorial garden is a proof of close Kuwait-Fukushima relationship," said Sato.

He also renewed his determination to address full restoration of his prefecture, which is the home to the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, saying, "Let's start from Fukushima. To realize new Fukushima, we appreciate continued support from all of you." A magnitude 9.0-quake and ensuring tsunami on March 11, 2011 left nearly 19, 000 people dead or missing in the region and crippled the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, which is located 55 km north of Iwaki. Kuwait also extended the donation of 5 million barrels of crude oil worth about USD 500 million soon after the catastrophe to help post-quake reconstruction in the three hardest-hit prefectures including Fukushima.

For his part, Ambassador Al-Otaibi lauded the remarkable people-to-people relationship between the two countries. "We are pleased to see that the Kuwaiti people, upon the initiative of His Highness the Amir, have been able to contribute to the closest friendship our country enjoys with any nation on earth. As we celebrate the inauguration of this new milestone that will forever remind us of how deeply rooted is our friendship, let us also celebrate our close partnership, which benefits our two nations and, indeed, the entire world in so many ways," Al-Otaibi said.

"The past few years have brought together a great number of organizations and individuals from both nations to discuss the historical legacy and futures of our societies, especially, Aquamarine Fukushima and KISR whose partnership and collaboration goes back decades in time," he highlighted the cooperative ties between two institutes. I commend the commitment and dynamic leadership and forward thinking of their directors that has brought these two organizations heightened respect and admiration from both nations, but we need our continued efforts to nurture and extend that friendship. We need the efforts of organizations such Aquamarine Fukushima and KSR and Kuwait University and others, to keep us moving forward," he added.

Opened in 2000 on the coast of the Pacific Ocean, Aquamarine Fukushima has been a popular attraction, where people of all ages can enjoy learning various mysteries of the sea. Although there were no human casualties in Aquamarine Fukushima, tsunami waves hit the main building with full force, killing 90 percent of marine animals in the aquarium. Aquamarine Fukushima was closed after the disaster but resumed business within four months.

Dr. Al-Mutairi said KISR and various Japanese institutes have expanded scientific cooperation since the organization was established in 1967 by Japan's Arabian Oil Company. Such a deep-rooted bilateral relationship is behind Kuwait's decision to have offered support to Aquamarine Fukushima, Dr. Al-Mutairi said.

Aquamarine Fukushima Executive Director Yoshitaka Abe said, who worked at KISR as a researcher in 1968-1969, expressed gratitude to His Highness the Amir for generous donation and the ambassador for working as a bridge between Kuwait and his aquarium as well as Fukushima Prefecture. (end)

By Miyoko Ishigami (with photos)