Marking 40 years

Marquette hosts guests in honor of longtime sister city partnership with Higashiomi, Japan

From left, Consul General Tsutomu Nakagawa of the Consulate General of Japan in the Detroit office, his wife, Chieko Nakagawa, and Mayuko Chashiro, an education, culture and public relations official from the consulate general’s office, view a collection of items in the Peter White Public Library’s Sister Cities Room Monday. The group toured the library, as well as other sites in the city in honor of the 40th anniversary of the sister city partnership between Marquette and Higashiomi, Japan. (Journal photo by Cecilia Brown)

MARQUETTE — While over 6,000 miles separate Marquette and Higashiomi, Japan, residents of the cities have built countless relationships and friendships over the past 40 years due to a sister city partnership.

The past four decades of sister city-hood was celebrated in Marquette this week, as the 40th anniversary of the sister city agreement signed on Aug. 13, 1979, took place Tuesday.

In honor of the anniversary, Consul General Tsutomu Nakagawa of the Consulate General of Japan’s Detroit office, his wife, and Mayuko Chashiro, an education, culture and public relations official with Nakagawa’s office, visited Marquette Monday through today.

“On the occasion of the 40th anniversary I thought that I needed to visit the city of Marquette to express our appreciation for the people who have been involved in supporting the continuity of our relationships,” Nakagawa said.

Nakagawa is grateful for the work of all involved in the partnership, he said, as the “grassroots and people-to-people exchange relationships” fostered by the sister cities have been important for the U.S.-Japan relationship over the past 40 years.

While they were in Marquette, the group had a chance to tour the city and meet with Marquette Area Sister Cities Partnership members, elected officials, community members and university officials.

“It’s quite an honor and a privilege that he could be here to celebrate and thank you for our 40 years of support,” said Paulette Lindberg of the Marquette Area Sister Cities Partnership.

On Monday, they had a chance to visit the newly renovated Peter White Public Library and see its Sister City Room, which contains a number of cultural artifacts showcasing and celebrating the sister city relationship.

The group also attended Monday evening’s Marquette City Commission meeting, where the partnership was discussed and an original embossed tablet commemorating the sister city relationship was presented.

“It is a pleasure to be here in Marquette to join a city commission meeting and learn more about your city,” Nakagawa said. “One of the missions of the consul general of Japan is nurturing the strong relationship between Japan and the state of Michigan by supporting cultural, educational and grassroots activities.”

These relationships are so important, he said, as they contribute to the “culture of understanding, international friendship and sharing ideas.”

The connection between the two cities has been critical for both communities and countries, Marquette Mayor Fred Stonehouse said.

“We are so isolated from so many things, but yet we are connected in so many ways with the world,” Stonehouse said. “And that connection just grows stronger and stronger when we have an opportunity to have sister city relationships like we do and have had with Higashiomi.”

Over the decades, the sister cities have exchanged visitors, as well as students, contributing to the relationship between the cities and nations.

“I am sure countless friendships have been formed through such visits over the past four decades,” Nakagawa said. “The Japan-U.S. bond is one of the world’s most important.”

Throughout the past 40 years, 40 exchange students from Higashiomi have come to Northern Michigan University, with the 40th arriving just last week, Lindberg said.

“We appreciate Northern for all of the support that they have lent to many, many students,” she said, noting that many of the students have went on to finish their four-year degrees, pursuing career and business opportunities in both the U.S. and Japan.

The exchange of students, people and ideas has strengthened both communities, Stonehouse said.

“You’re building a bridge one person at a time and every bridge you’re building makes us stronger on both sides of that bridge,” he said. “And it makes me extraordinarily proud that we have had a relationship that long. It makes me extraordinarily proud that we have students going back and forth, and that more importantly, we have our citizens and your citizens having the opportunity to learn more about each other.”

Overall, Nakagawa said, the relationships formed are “the backbone of the enduring alliance between our two countries.”

“I hope the friendship between Marquette and Higashiomi will continue to prosper for many decades to come,” he said.

Cecilia Brown can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 248. Her email address is cbrown@miningjournal.net.