Dignitaries toast two nations at sister cities gala
The stay may be short, but the bonds are strong.
Visitors from Nyuzen, Japan, arrived in Forest Grove on Monday, July 2, for a celebration of the 30th anniversary of the two communities' sister city relationship. After taking Independence Day to see the sights, enjoy themselves and perhaps take in a fireworks show, most of the delegates will fly out of Portland International Airport on Thursday, July 5.
To cap off the formal part of the festivities, on Tuesday evening, July 3, the delegation and its hosts — families with whom the delegates are staying, city officials and volunteers involved in organizing the visit, and special guests from the Forest Grove Daybreak Rotary Club, the Forest Grove/Cornelius Chamber of Commerce and even the Consular Office of Japan in Portland — enjoyed a catered dinner on the lawn outside Marsh Hall, on Pacific University's wooded campus in the heart of Forest Grove.
Mayor Pete Truax of Forest Grove read aloud a letter from Oregon Gov. Kate Brown hailing the special ties between Forest Grove and Nyuzen, which were first cultivated in the late 1980s after local companies Tektronix and NEC began a business relationship.
"When we evaluate Oregon's efforts to develop global awareness, the Forest Grove-Nyuzen relationship stands out as a highly successful venture that has fostered ties of friendship between the two cities for so many years," the letter read in part.
Oregon and Japan's Toyama Prefecture, in which the port town of Nyuzen is located on the island of Honshu, are also twinned. That relationship began in 1991, more than two years after Forest Grove and Nyuzen signed an accord to formalize their sister city ties.
The sister city designation is, in essence, symbolic — but it's a symbol that both Truax and his Nyuzen counterpart, Haruhito Sasajima, indicated they take very seriously.
Truax and his wife, Pat, have been to Nyuzen three times — staying with the same family each time, Pat said. Sasajima is visiting Forest Grove for the fifth time.
"We are so humbled by your hospitality," Sasajima said through a translator. "We cannot thank (you) enough for welcoming us with such big hearts."
He added, "I cannot emphasize strongly enough the importance of our partnership. This is my only hope: that our cities continue to exchange our people and cultures."
Takashi Teraoka was a guest of honor at Tuesday evening's event. Teraoka is a veteran of Japan's diplomatic corps, and he assumed the role of consul-general in Portland earlier this year.
"In Japan, many local municipalities have created sister city relationships with towns and cities around the world," Teraoka said in English. "But to maintain such close interaction for 30 years to the extent that you in Forest Grove and Nyuzen have managed is a truly great accomplishment. This success is a gift that comes solely from the mutual and persistent effort of all of you, and I'd like to express my profound respect and appreciation for all of you."
The consul-general added, to laughter and hearty applause, "I think it is more than fair to say that Nyuzen and Forest Grove sister city is a model example — or, I shall say, the king of the sister city relationship."
Along with dinner and prepared remarks, attendees enjoyed traditional Japanese music and dance at the gala.
Truax and Sasajima also exchanged gifts, from one community to the other. Forest Grove's gift to Nyuzen was a handmade book illustrating the history of the sister city relationship, with photos from visits made by delegations through the years. Nyuzen gifted a set of ceremonial stacking wooden cups to Forest Grove, which Sasajima said symbolize the past, present and future.
One of Forest Grove's most influential figures in maintaining the sister city relationship with Nyuzen, longtime city volunteer Sandy Garcia, was honored as well. Truax presented Garcia, who serves as president of the Forest Grove Sister Cities Committee, with a certificate of appreciation in acknowledgement of her work.
The gala was the last in a whirlwind day of activities for the Nyuzen delegation. Earlier in the day, they toured Saké One, a Forest Grove sake-maker with strong ties to Japan; local sake was used for a toast Truax led "to the Empire of Japan and to the United States of America." The delegation also participated in the dedication of a "Peace Pole" sponsored by the Forest Grove Daybreak Rotary Club, which commemorates the sister city relationship.
By Mark Miller
Editor, Forest Grove News-Times
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