That‘s one of the things members of the city commission learned last week when they welcomed a delegation of three Japanese visitors who represent our “home away from home“ across the Pacific.
Yoshinobu Lino, Misato Yamagiwa and Yoichi Shirai spent five days here, touring the region as part of a goodwill mission that was established 38 years ago.
Back in 1970, TC became the Sister City of Tsuchiyama, a town outside the Kyoto/Osaka area in south central Japan. In 2003, Tsuchiyama joined with four other towns to make up the city of Koka. Hence the update.
Formerly, Koka had a population of less than 10,000. Like Traverse City, it too is located on a large lake -- in fact, Lake Biwa is the biggest lake in Japan.
Koka is the birthplace of the legendary Ninja warriors -- those black-claid commandos who strike without warning in the night. The area also serves as the setting for the oldest romance novel in the world: “The Tale of Genji,“ which was written 1,000 years ago. It‘s said to be quite a pleasant place, although quite hot and steamy this time of year, being on the same latitude as Atlanta, Ga.
And please note: Shiga Prefecture, the area surrounding Koka, is the Sister State of Michigan, as is Sichuan Province in China. This is the 40th anniversary of our Japanese relationship, which was put into play by Gov. George Romney back in 1968.
A labor of love keeps our cities connected: several members of the Traverse City Cultural Exchange are hosting the visitors and seeing that they have a good time: Pam and Mike Bailey, Deb Bowman and Don Kuehlhorn and Richard and Susan Cover are citizens who have reached out and opened their homes.
The Baileys have been to Japan five times since hosting a student from Tsuchiyama 14 years ago. They‘ve hosted a visitor from the town every other year since then.
Pam says that when funding to help the visitors dried up at Northwestern Michigan College a few years a back, local citizens got involved, including Vicki and Ralph Hay, Kimi and Cliff Durga, and the Oleson Foundation, to continue the friendship across the sea.
Last year, more than 50 Japanese visitors traveled to Michigan to see their Sisters across the state. The Japanese are apparently big on the Sister Cities program, since they have at least 20 here in Michigan. Some of those connections lead to trade arrangements.
And what an important thing, considering that World War II is still within the memory of many citizens living in both countries. More smiles and understanding -- that‘s what the world needs. More sisters in foreign lands.
Speaking of which, here‘s a run-down on a few Sister Cities across Northern Michigan. Check out your distant relation -- view it on Google Earth, and consider a visit. The folks over yonder will surely be glad to see you.
Gaylord: Pontresina, Switzerland.
Mount Pleasant: Okaya, Japan and Valdivia, Chile.
Petoskey: Takashima, Japan.
Sault Ste Marie: Ryuo, Japan.
Suttons Bay: Acteal, Mexico.