Fukushima 'citizens' racecourse' turns 100(市民に愛されたターフ「福島競馬場100周年」)

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 Back in 1918, The Fukushima Minyu newspaper ran a breathless report on the atmosphere of the first horse race at Fukushima Racecourse, held on June 28 under clear skies.
 "Spectators erupted in wild cheers as they watched 12 swift horses all at once come galloping down the track," the newspaper reported the following day.
 The echoing of horses' hooves and the roar of the crowd still reverberate as strong as ever at the racecourse in Fukushima, which marked its 100th anniversary on Thursday. The venue has been cherished not only by horse racing fans but citizens of all ages in the century since its opening.

 福島競馬場(福島市)が28日、開設100周年を迎えた。競馬ファンだけでなく幅広い世代の市民と共に一世紀を駆け抜けた。
 「12頭の駿馬(しゅんめ)が一斉に疾駆せる壮観を眺めし観客の熱狂は物凄(ものすご)きばかりなり」。 1918(大正7)年6月28日、晴れ渡った福島競馬場。第1回福島競馬が開催され、翌日の福島民友新聞は会場の様子をそう伝えた。

 This first horse race was the fruit of a campaign by local politicians and businessmen to attract a racecourse to the city. Yozo Oshima (1859-1932), who served as president of the Fukushima Chamber of Commerce and the fourth president of the Fukushima Minyu, played a leading role in bringing horse racing to Fukushima.
 To realize his plan, Oshima hit on the idea of relocating to Fukushima the racecourse of the Fujieda horse racing club in Shizuoka Prefecture, which was facing financial difficulties. A company comprising citizen shareholders was established to construct the Fukushima race track.

 初開催に至るには、地元政財界が一体となった誘致運動があった。誘致の中心となったのは福島商工会議所会頭や福島民友新聞社第4代社長を務めた実業家大島要三(1859~1932)だった。大島らは経営難に陥っていた静岡県の藤枝競馬倶楽部の福島市移転という形で誘致を実現。競馬場建設のために市民らを株主とする会社が設立された。

 "Fukushima citizens have been deeply involved in the racecourse since its starting point. The venue deserves the nickname 'citizens' racecourse,'" said Toshiaki Shibata, 68, a city official at the historiography section of the Fukushima board of education.

 「競馬場はその出発点から、福島市民が深く関わっている。『市民競馬場』と呼ぶにふさわしい」。福島市教委市史編纂室の柴田俊彰さん(68)は指摘する。

 When Emperor Showa toured the Tohoku region in 1947, locals chose to welcome the Emperor at the racecourse.
 "Its selection indicates how dear the facility was to citizens," Shibata said. Emperor Showa visited the racecourse again to watch an equestrian event at the seventh National Athletic Meet in autumn 1952.

 戦後、1947年。昭和天皇の東北巡幸の際、地元が歓迎の場に選んだのが福島競馬場だった。「天皇陛下をお迎えする場に選んだことは、いかに競馬場が市民にとって身近な存在だったかを示している」と柴田さん。天皇は52年秋、第7回国民体育大会の馬術競技観覧のため再び競馬場を訪れている。

 Overcoming 2011 disaster
 Tsutomu Shikauchi, 66, a former employee at the racecourse, felt a great tremor at his office in Fukushima at 2:46 p.m. on March 11, 2011, when the Great East Japan Earthquake hit the area.
 Shikauchi, who was responsible for lawn maintenance, rushed to inspect the turf. There was no major visible damage to the course from the earthquake, but the spectator stands were soaking wet because sprinklers had been activated.
 Before long, a trial-and-error process of restoring the racecourse got under way.

 2011(平成23)年3月11日午後2時46分。福島競馬場職員だった鹿内勉さん(66)はその時、福島市の競馬場事務所で激しい揺れに襲われた。
 コースの芝の管理などが担当だった鹿内さんは、馬場の様子を確認へと急いだ。馬場に被害は確認できなかったが、スタンドはスプリンクラーが作動して水浸した。福島競馬再開に向けた試行錯誤の日々が始まった。

 As many as 550 evacuees were forced to live at the facility in the immediate aftermath of the earthquake.
 Recalling the early days of restoration work, Shikauchi said, "We were told to do radioactive decontamination work, but we had no idea what to do."
 Racecourse officials eventually came up with a decontamination plan after observing a case at a nearby schoolyard in which polluted soil was replaced with clean soil. The racecourse decided to replace its lawn as well.

 東日本大震災直後、最も多い時で550人が競馬場で避難生活を送った。
 復旧作業が始まったが、「除染と言われても、何をしたらいいのか、全く分からなかった」と鹿内さん。付近の学校のグラウンドで行われていた土の入れ替えなどを参考にして対策を考えた。芝の張り替えも行うことになった。

 In the end, horse racing at the Fukushima course was cancelled in 2011 because of seismic retrofitting as well as restoration work on the stands.
 Racing finally resumed at the venue on April 7, 2012, for the first time in a year and five months. A crowd of 13,198 spectators -- far larger than the figure in spring 2010 -- gathered to witness the reopening.

 11年は結局、スタンドの復旧のほかに耐震性強化の工事も行われ、福島競馬の開催は見送られた。
 翌12年4月7日、10年秋以来1年5カ月ぶりとなる福島競馬が開幕した。10年春の入場者数を大きく上回る1万3198人が詰め掛け、緑の劇場に声援が戻った。

 Shikauchi, by then retired, also watched the race. "I was relieved to hear the pounding of horses' hooves on the course. The resumption of the race had profound implications for Fukushima, which was suffering the ill effects of false rumors," Shikauchi said.
  Many regarded the resumption as a symbol of recovery from the quake.
  "The 100-year history is significant. I hope the course will remain loved by people," Shikauchi said.

 既に定年退職していた鹿内さんの姿もあった。「馬のひづめの音を聞いて、ほっとした。風評被害がある中、福島で競馬を再開できた意味は大きかった」。競馬場の再開は、多くの人に復興の象徴として受け止められた。
 鹿内さんは「100年の歴史の重みはすごい。これからも市民に好かれる競馬場であってほしい」と期待する。

 Fukushima Racecourse began its next 100-year chapter on Saturday, when the summer season kicked off.

( Translated by The Japan News )

 新たな100年への幕開けとなる夏の福島競馬は6月30日に始まった。

 【 2018年6月17日、20日付・福島民友新聞掲載 】