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Reflections on Hekinan | Mayor's Corner


April 13, 2018

I had a three-hour layover in Seoul, South Korea, so why not start the next column? This after six very busy (sometimes intense), but enormously rewarding, days in Hekinan, Japan, our Sister City.

The 10-plus-hour flight time doesn't seem very exciting – lots of reading, a couple of movies and some attempt at sleeping gets the job done. The treat at the end of the flight is the real reward. From the large greeting reception at the airport forward, every hour is filled with activity.

The "main events" during the week were two special celebrations, the first being the 30th anniversary celebration of our Sister City relationship with Hekinan and, second, participating in Hekinan's 70th anniversary of the founding of their city.

The Japanese are extremely proud of their city and the relationships they have built over time. At the 30th anniversary celebration, there were easily 200 to 250 people in attendance. At the 70th anniversary celebration, another 500-550 people.

Both celebrations included music, speeches and refreshments. At the 30th anniversary gathering we exchanged gifts, in this case an exchange of artworks. I was given the opportunity to speak at both occasions, which was an honor.

While we were in Hekinan, we had an opportunity to meet with a delegation from Pula, Croatia, Hekinan's second Sister City. Pula was there celebrating the ninth anniversary of its relationship with Hekinan.

Our first full day in Hekinan the delegation had an hour-long meeting with Mayor Negita and his cabinet, followed by a tour of City Hall. The meeting was very interactive, with comments from the mayor, and me. Several of our delegation had an opportunity to speak and ask questions.

As I have mentioned before, Hekinan is an industrial-rich city. While there, we toured a Toyota factory where we were able to see cars assembled from boxes of parts, to the finished project rolling off the assembly line. The coordinated effort of workers, automation, and timing, is amazing.

We also toured the Chubu Thermal Power Station, which uses coal as its power source. The coal is imported from throughout the Pacific with the primary supplier, Australia.

Yes, we also did some sightseeing, including the Okazaki Castle Cherry Blossom Festival, a day tour of the city of Kyoto and several Buddhist Temples.

Above all for me (and I think the delegation) was the opportunity to meet and better understand the people and culture of Hekinan and Japan. They are warm, friendly people who are equally interested our city and country.

Our delegation did a marvelous job of befriending our hosts, and I'm sure came away with a new and lasting impression of Hekinan and Japan.

Special accolades go to Iyoko Okano, who has been involved with the Sister City program for 22 years as our translator and goodwill ambassador the entire time, and Carolyn LaFave, my executive assistant, for her meticulous attention to detail in coordinating the exchange.

Thanks to you both.


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