The city of Delaware will continue to refine its new sister city relationship with Sakata in Yamagata, Japan, since its delegation visited the city in April.
The Sakata delegation had Mayor Carolyn Kay Riggle, City Manager Tom Homan, Ohio Wesleyan University Provost Chuck Stinemetz, Delaware City Schools teacher Joanne Meyer and Jeffrey Sprague of Next Transport, which recently relocated its Marion plant to the city’s industrial park on Pittsburgh Drive. Stinemetz’s wife went on the trip, but not as part of the delegation.
Riggle said they built friendships through “layers of formality” with Sakata officials.
“We learn so much of their history, their culture, visiting businesses, the schools,” she said at an April City Council meeting.
“It was just over the top,” she said.
During the trip, the delegation experienced Sakata: its museums, traditions, cuisine, government operations and two businesses, an Epson plant, which makes printer parts, and a Honma Golf plant, which makes golf clubs.
At one museum, they tried on samurai armor, which was “very hot and heavy,” Homan said.
“We were honored and overwhelmed by their hospitality,” he said. “… We became part of their community for the time we were there.”
Riggle said they had signs everywhere that welcomed delegation at the places they visited. And she was interviewed by three newspapers and was on one of their radio stations.
“They treated us like royalty, like rock stars … everywhere we went,” she said.
Homan said Riggle’s outreach to the Sakata mayor a couple years ago culminated with the signing of the sister city agreement the week they visited.
“We formally established our sister city ties with a city that has been sending its students (to us) for the last 20 years,” Homan said.
The delegation will have a report about its trip with photos to present to council in the future. Homan said the city will work over the next six months to a year to produce a road map for what the program would look like in the future.
He would like to have municipal leaders have exchange visits with their counterparts and exchange ideas of how to deliver government services. But there is interest among some Sister City Advisory Board members to include community members who may be interested in visiting Japan as part of the sister city relationship.
Additionally, there are some immediate impacts with its new ties to Japan.
Delaware is now a member of the Japan-America Society of Central Ohio. City officials also met recently (June 8) with a Japanese-based company that was excited about its new sister city ties, Homan said.
“We want to build upon the Japanese presence in central Ohio,” he said.
Council voted 4-1-1 to allow public funds for the trip. The city paid $3,962.82 including $2,408.12 for Homan and Riggle’s air fare combined. The city paid $212.20 out of the mayor’s fund, which is funded with dollars from the mayor performing weddings. Sakata officials paid the delegation’s expenses during the trip.
Gazette reporter Brandon Klein can be reached by email or on Twitter at @brandoneklein.