Misa Murohashi, The North American Post (translated by Bruce Rutledge)
Hyogo Prefecture Governor Toshizo Ido led a friendship delegation on a visit to Washington state to celebrate the 55th anniversary of Hyogo and Washington’s sister-state relationship on July 27 at the Capitol Building in Olympia. In all, about 70 people from Japan took part in the celebration, including the 12-person friendly delegation from Hyogo led by Takahiro Matsumoto, chairman of the prefectural council; an economic-exchange delegation of 20 headed by Tadaaki Sunami, president of Sunami Business Solutions; and a citizens-exchange delegation of 26 led by Hisashi Higashine, president of the Prefectural Fisheries Promotion Fund. Representatives from Washington State included Governor Inslee, Lieutenant Governor Cyrus Habib, others in state government, academics including the assistant dean of Evergreen State College, representatives of the Japan America Society of the State of Washington, State Sen. Bob Hasegawa and State Rep. Sharon Tomiko Santos.
Karin Zaugg Black, president of the Seattle-Kobe Sister City Association and the next president of the Japan America Society of the State of Washington, presided over the bilingual ceremony. Consul-General of Japan in Seattle Yoichiro Yamada delivered a greeting, saying that both Hyogo and Washington developed trade around their ports through their history and also both have a vibrant brewing industry. He added that when he looks at the percentage of women in government and the activity of women in general, “Hyogo Prefecture has something to learn from Washington state.” At the same time, when it comes to measures to prepare for natural disasters, Washington can learn from Hyogo, he added. Yamada also said about the USA’s decision to drop out of the Transpacific Partnership, “I hope you will come back soon.”
Next up was Governor Inslee, who spoke about the importance of economic and international exchanges with Japan like the one that is developing with Mitsubishi Regional Jet in Washington. “We are the real Washington, not Washington DC,” Inslee said. He added that no matter what the government in Washington DC decides, Washington State is a place ready to engage with the world, and that will not change. He added that both regions intend to directly combat climate change and prepare their disaster-prone regions through mutual collaboration.
Finally, Governor Ido spoke. He thanked retired State Senator Karen Fraser for her work as chair of the 55th Anniversary Celebration Planning Committee. He said that Hyogo, which grew from the commerce around the Port of Kobe, is approaching its 150th year since establishment and now is home to people from 150 different nationalities and about 10,000 foreign-born residents, making it a multicultural society. “The biggest common point between us is our variety and the diversity of forward-thinking Washington state,” he said, emphasizing the importance of strong regional ties.
The final part of the ceremony had both governors signing a reaffirmation of the sister-state agreement, with Matsumoto and Habib adding their signatures as witnesses. Also, Evergreen State College and the University of Hyogo signed a certificate reaffirming their long-standing relationship, and the Port of Olympia and Shin Nishinomiya Yacht Harbor reaffirmed their sister-port arrangement.
Hyogo and Washington have been sister states since 1963; Kobe and Seattle began their sister-city relationship in 1957, and that is the first of 13 sister-city relationships between the states. Also, the Hyogo Prefecture International Exchange Committee established in 1990 the Hyogo Business and Cultural Center in Seattle, providing business support in the US for Hyogo-based companies and many kinds of international exchange operations.