The 2020 Tokyo Games organizing committee plans to use flowers produced in areas hit by the 2011 earthquake and tsunami for victory bouquets awarded to Olympic and Paralympic medalists.

The plan to use flowers from three prefectures -- Fukushima, Miyagi and Iwate -- is aimed at showing appreciation to people around the world for their support in rebuilding the devastated areas, the organizing committee said.

Around 5,000 bouquets will be prepared for the games, and are expected to be a combination of prairie gentians from Fukushima, sunflowers and roses from Miyagi and gentians from Iwate. The committee will decide on specific producers after coordinating with local governments.

"I'd like to grow colorful flowers as a symbol of recovery," said 68-year-old Yoichi Kanno earlier this month in the town of Kawamata in Fukushima, checking the budding of prairie gentians inside a box under a plastic hothouse.

Kanno serves as the adviser to "Abukuma Cut Flower Group," comprised of eight florists from the Yamakiya area, where the cultivation of the flower, originating in North America, began in 1989.

The area's extreme temperature gap between day and night is well suited for its growth, helping it to produce large and brightly colored flowers.

The group's planting area was some 3 hectares before the area became an evacuation zone due to the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant crisis triggered by the 2011 disaster.

Although production was suspended, the members gathered regularly after being evacuated. They encouraged each other, with one member saying, "We'll go back to Yamakiya to grow prairie gentians."

All members once again started cultivating the flower in 2014, before the evacuation order was lifted, shipping for the first time in four years. The planting area has also bounced back, with acreage equal to roughly 60 percent of what it was before the disaster recovered so far.

This summer, Kanno delivered dozens of their prairie gentians to a bouquet wholesaler as a sample to be used for the games.

"It'll be to my utmost delight if the flowers we grew are presented to medalists as a symbol of the recovery, and seen all over the world," he said. "We'll be working to cultivate even bigger and more beautiful flowers."

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