By Elaine Ikoma Ko
For The North American Post
This past Nov. 16-19, I joined 17 other delegation members with the Seattle-Kobe Sister City Association (SKSCA) in visiting Kobe, Japan, in commemoration of the association’s 65th year anniversary. The trip reciprocated an Oct. 29-Nov. 2 Seattle visit by Kobe Mayor Kizo Hisamoto and his colleagues (napost.com, Nov. 13).
In Japan, the group joined with Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell‘s delegation, which had been in Tokyo the prior week. Harrell’s group was part of the International Leadership Mission of the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce, working in partnership with Greater Seattle Partners, a regional trade and investment organization. Together, the combined delegations totaled 77 people.
What follows is an interview with Karin Zaugg-Black, the sister-city association’s 65th anniversary chair and long-time association leader.
What is the significance of the 65th anniversary of the Seattle-Kobe Sister City Association? What were the themes for this year’s celebration?
-Seattle and Kobe were the first sister-city associations for both cities. President Dwight Eisenhower issued the first sister-city concept and program in 1956. Seattle and Kobe established their program a year later, so we were early adopters of the idea of creating grassroots exchanges between the people of our two cities. Commemorating 65 years of continued relations is a milestone certainly worth celebrating.
Our delegation to Kobe and the Kobe delegation’s earlier visit to Seattle focused on the themes of environmental issues and reducing carbon emissions through discussing topics like alternative fuel sources such as hydrogen. Our sister ports of Seattle and Kobe also shared information and are learning from each other as we tackle shared challenges.
Other themes for the delegations were trade and economic development, high speed rail, emergency preparedness and community policing.
While in Seattle, Mayor Hisamoto was also looking at technology solutions and examining our local library system and airport to glean new ideas to take back to Kobe.
It is a testament to our long sister-city and sister-port relationships that we continue to engage with these partners that we have a long history with. What is most exciting is that we are always discussing different topics based on the needs of each city in the present. In the process, we are creating new exchanges and activities to further strengthen our bonds and involve more people.
What has been your role with this Association and this anniversary delegation?
-I am a past chair of the SKSCA and have been a board member since 1999. I chaired this year’s Anniversary Planning Committee.
From 1993-1996, I worked for the Kobe Mayor’s Office on the Japan Exchange and Teaching (JET) Program. When I returned home to Seattle in 1997, I started volunteering with SKSCA. Then, I was on the planning committee for the 40th sister-city anniversary and 35th sister-port anniversary so this is my sixth time to be involved as an organizer for sister-city anniversary activities and exchanges.
A cool fact: Stacey Jehlik, with the City of Seattle’s Office of Intergovernmental Relations, was also in the JET program from 1996-1997. She worked on the 40th anniversary from the Kobe Mayor’s office — so this is the sixth anniversary we have worked on together!
What do you think was special about this particular anniversary and delegation?
-The sister-city association has worked tirelessly to connect Seattle and Kobe residents through activities or passions that they already have, like baseball or jazz, and then add the international element to it. This year, as we brainstormed with the City of Kobe organizers, we created the idea of small-business exchanges and pairing businesses that create cookies, coffee and beer!
It’s been wonderful to have our small-business partners get to know each other and have fun introducing tasty products! Seattle’s Lucky Envelope Brewing and Kobe’s Rokko Beer owners each spent a week in each other’s cities, learning and brewing beer together – the tasty result will be a sister-city beer in the coming weeks!
Robin Wehl Martin of Seattle’s Hello Robin traveled to Kobe and introduced her yummy cookies to Kobe people at four events. We hope to do a reciprocal visit with Pastry Chef Shuhei Hayashi of Mont Plus of Kobe.
Shaun Peterson, a local Native American artist, also joined the delegation and unveiled a new friendship totem-pole design that will replace the original one in Kobe. Local jazz/blues singer Jacqueline Tabor also treated us to some fantastic performances!
Are there SKCSA announcements you wish to share?
-The SKSCA welcomes volunteers to get involved in our projects and exchanges. You can follow us on social media and sign up for the newsletter. An upcoming anniversary event will be the Sister City Beer Launch, Friday, Jan. 6, from 5 – 7 p.m., at Lucky Envelope Brewing, Ballard.