Photo/IllutrationFour female first-graders receive their textbooks from the principal at their entrance ceremony at Odaka Elementary School in Minami-Soma, Fukushima Prefecture, on April 6. (Yosuke Fukudome)

MINAMI-SOMA, Fukushima Prefecture--Although much smaller in number, Odaka district's first-graders could finally celebrate their entrance ceremony in their home school on April 6 for the first time since the 2011 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster.

The evacuation order for the district, located within 20 kilometers from the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, had been lifted in July 2016.

At the ceremony, four female first-graders entered the Odaka Elementary School gymnasium, led by sixth-graders holding their hands.

“Since we will return to Odaka in the future, I had her enrolled in the school," said Naoto Hanazato, 47, father of Juria Hanazato, who will commute to the school from their evacuation residence. "It is a pity for her if she had to move later in the middle of the school year.”

After the disaster, students in the four elementary schools in the Odaka district continued taking classes at a prefabricated school building, which was set up on the grounds of the junior high school in the city’s north side from April 2013 to March 2017. The four are Odaka, Fukuura, Kanabusa and Hatsupara elementary schools.

From this fiscal year, they returned to Odaka Elementary School’s decontaminated and renovated building.

The total number of students from the four schools is 62, less than 10 percent of the number before the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami hit on March 11, 2011, triggering the accident at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant.