LONG BEACH — The 50th anniversary of the sister-city relationship between Long Beach and Yokkaichi, Mie Prefecture, was celebrated with a series of events last week, including a dinner held Nov. 8 at Khoury’s Restaurant.
The celebration began last month when a seven-member delegation from the Long Beach-Yokkaichi Sister City Association (LBYSCA) visited Yokkaichi. This month, Long Beach reciprocated by hosting 13 dignitaries from Yokkaichi.
The dinner included greetings from Yokkaichi Mayor Toshiyuki Tanaka, who welcomed the LBYSCA group to City Hall last month, and City Council Chairman Kazuma Doi, who was visiting Long Beach for the first time.
Opening remarks were also given by Long Beach City Councilmember Gerrie Schipske, Deputy Consul General Masahiro Suga, and Yoko Pusavat, LBYSCA vice president and professor emeritus of Japanese and linguistics at CSU Long Beach.
Mike Vaughn, webmaster and past president of LBYSCA, presented a slide show on the history of the sister-city program, which was founded by Long Beach Mayor Edwin Wade and Yokkaichi Mayor Sukenori Hirata in 1963, just four years after Los Angeles and Nagoya established their affiliation.
The annual exchanges of gifts have included a mikoshi (portable shrine) from Yokkaichi, so heavy that it had to be transported by the Navy aboard an aircraft carrier, and a working model of an oil derrick from Long Beach. This year, Long Beach gave Yokkaichi a model of the Queen Mary.
LBYSCA, in partnership with the Long Beach Unified School District and the Port of Long Beach, has hosted student ambassadors from Yokkaichi annually since 1965 and sent young representatives to Yokkaichi since 1966. In alternate years, each city selects one teacher and two students to participate; this year’s Long Beach trio consisted of teacher Trisha Krug and students John Huynh and Tanya Nguyen.
Since 1986, LBYSCA has also partnered with CSULB and the Yokkaichi Board of Education on the Yokkaichi English Fellows (YEF) program, through which Long Beach teachers and CSULB graduates serve for two to five years as assistant language teachers at elementary and middle schools in Yokkaichi. About 80 teachers have participated so far; the 2013 fellows are Victor Nguyen, Courtney Roe and Alexander Smith. YEF is credited with helping Yokkaichi students achieve among the highest English proficiency scores in Japan.
Beginning in 2002, under the direction of the late Dr. John Kashiwabara, a former board member of LBYSCA, the Physicians Exchange between Yokkaichi Municipal Hospital and Long Beach Memorial Medical Center was launched to enable Japanese physicians to study Western medical techniques. Three doctors from Yokkaichi visited Long Beach in February.
This month’s Yokkaichi delegation included Dr. Masayuki Miyauchi, deputy administrator and deputy administrator, and Kiyomi Yoshihara, deputy director and nursing director, from Yokkaichi Municipal Hospital.
Most recently, former Yokkaichi Mayor Tetsuo Inoue proposed in 2007 that a delegation of Long Beach students go to Yokkaichi to discuss environmental problems and solutions with students from Japan and China in cooperation with the Port of Long Beach and environmental groups. This resulted in the Environmental Summit Program, whose 2013 participants were Thomas Jelenic (chaperone), Colin Mullen, Andrew Schenker, Katherine Tran and David Turien.
Vaughn emphasized that the exchanges are “people-to-people,” not just “mayor-to-mayor,” and that the programs make a difference in the lives of youth in both countries.
Among the local dignitaries in attendance were Mayor Bob Foster and former mayors Beverly O’Neill and Eunice Sato. Now in her 90s, Sato was Long Beach’s first female mayor and is believed to be the first Asian American woman mayor of a major U.S. city.
Jeanette Schelin, LBYSCA president and senior director of the Earl Burns Miller Japanese Garden at CSULB, presented tokens of appreciation to the following individuals for their support of the program:
Harbor Commissioner Doug Drummond; LBUSD President John McGinnis; Cecilia Fidora, assistant director for education abroad, Center for International Education, CSULB; Bruce Easley, LBYSCA board member and Physicians Exchange coordinator; Ramon Aravalo, manager of the Maintenance and Development Bureau of the Parks, Recreation and Marine Administration; Deputy City Manager Tom Modica; and Margaret Madden, the city’s neighborhood resource officer.
David Zanatta, chairman/president of Sister Cities of Long Beach, presented Tanaka and Schelin with plaques in recognition of Long Beach’s “oldest and finest” sister-city program.
Schlein presented Tanaka with a special edition of “Visions of the Sea” by renowned marine artist Wyland, Tanaka in turn gave Schlein a work of banko-yaki, a type of pottery, by artist Enza Kishi.
The delegation also had an opportunity to meet members of the Los Angeles and Orange County Mie Kenjinkai, including Ted and Tomiko Ando and Tomio Ito, who are from Yokkaichi.
Entertainment was provided by Hedgehog Swing, a jazz quartet featuring Gage Hulsey, a 2007 trio participant and current CSULB student.
Other events during the week included a tour of CSULB and lunch at the Earl Burns Miller Japanese Garden; a visit with Mayor Foster to sign a memorandum of friendship; tours of various civic projects; and meetings with city and port officials, business leaders and community representatives to discuss developmental issues that are common to both cities.
The delegation also included:
Kikuo Inoue, secretary-general of the City Council;
Hidenori Maeda, director of the Community and Culture Department;
Harumi Kobayashi, manager, and Yasumasa Ono, staff member, of the Cultural and International Division;
Osamu Hirano, executive director of Japan Transcity Co. Ltd.;
Yoshisuke Kobayashi, member of the Yokkaichi-Long Beach Sister City 50th Anniversary Executive Committee and former secretary-general of the Yokkaichi Japan Foundation;
Toru Mizutani, chairman of the Yokkaichi Cultural Association and leader of the Yokkaichi Symphony Orchestra;
Sumitaka Mori, president of Morikin Ceramic Co. Ltd. and member of the Chamber of Commerce and Rotary Club, and his wife, Yuki Mori.
— Story and photos by J.K. YAMAMOTO