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May 29, 2017

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Pharrell song spreads happiness in Fukushima

A YouTube video showing people in disaster-hit Fukushima Prefecture dancing joyously to American singer Pharrell Williams' hit song "Happy" has been extremely popular, having been played on the Internet over 439,000 times since its release about a month ago.

The video is the first in a set of three similar YouTube videos that were filmed recently in Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima prefectures, which were devastated by the Great East Japan Earthquake and subsequent tsunami in March 2011.

It aims to show people in the rest of the world that residents in the disaster-struck area are still living their lives with a focus on the future.

Williams's song, which repeats the phrase "because I'm happy" with a light rhythm, was released late last year.

Since then, people creating their own videos, with the song as the soundtrack, and sharing them on the Internet has become a global phenomenon.

Hitomi Kumasaka, a 53-year-old consulting firm manager in Fukushima, came up with the idea of creating a Fukushima version after learning on the Internet of a widespread misunderstanding that people can no longer live in Fukushima Prefecture due to the nuclear accident caused by the earthquake and tsunami.

About 200 people, including Fukushima mayor Kaoru Kobayashi, small children and buddhist monks, appear in the video and dance in their own styles.

The video was filmed at various locations, including JR Fukushima Station, tourist sights such as a hot spring bath, a shopping avenue and a rice paddy.

Together with acquaintances, Kumasaka filmed the video over two weeks in May.

Following its release on June 2, many people posted comments, from favorable messages, such as, "(The video) cheered me up," to those expressing surprise, such as, "Is it really filmed in Fukushima?"

JR Fukushima station master Yasunori Kano, who appeared in the video, said, "I hope that the video shows how attractive Fukushima is."

Volunteers in Ishinoamki, Miyagi Prefecture, and in Rikuzen-Tataka, Iwate Prefecture, are also working on their own "Happy" videos, which are expected to be released from early July.

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