By Clare Petrich – Board Member, Sister Cities International
Celebrating 60 years of friendship, Kitakyushu, Japan and Tacoma have been Sister Cities since 1959. The relationship began with Kokura, one of the five towns that merged in 1963 to form the present-day Kitakyushu. Located in northern Kyushu, Japan’s southernmost island, this city of more than 1,000,000 is a commercial port and industrial center situated halfway between Tokyo and Shanghai. It is surrounded by beautiful mountain regions where ancient crafts of pottery, weaving and glasswork are still practiced today. Kitakyushu boasts numerous museums, universities, and parks.
Led by Tacoma Mayor Victoria Woodards, a 12-person delegation from Tacoma returned last week from Kitakyushu. They celebrated their 60th anniversary with dynamic meetings and cultural and educational exchanges. Tacoma Community College President Ivan Harrell visited the University of Kitakyushu to meet faculty and students. Tacoma’s own world music maker Kareem Kandi created an instant orchestra of Kitakyushu students playing favorite jazz for meetings with Mayor Kenji Kitahashi of Kitakyushu. The delegation visited Kokura Castle and was surprised and delighted by the beautiful renovations made to the historic castle and the magnificent blooms of Kitakyushu’s cherry blossom trees.
The past 60 years have seen many exchanges including the construction of traditional Japanese-style gardens in Tacoma. Tacoma and Kitakyushu have held friendly youth baseball exchanges plus many student and cultural exchanges.
Walter Allen, chair of the Kitakyushu Sister City Committee, welcomes all Tacomans to a local celebration on Thursday, April 25 at the Blue Mouse Theater to view the opening film of the Sister City Film Festival and enjoy an authentic Japanese menu. Tickets are $25 and available through Eventbrite at Tacoma Sister Cities Facebook page and at the Pacific Northwest Shop on Proctor.
“Our community looks forward hosting our Kitakyushu friends this summer when they return to Tacoma for more jazz and celebratory events,” Allen said. “After 60 years, we have lots of stories to share.”