60th Anniversary of Kobe-Seattle Sister City Relations: Seattle Seafair2017 marks 60 years since the City of Kobe and the City of Seattle established a sister-city relationship. It was the first of such a partnership for both cities when this agreement was made in October 1957. Just over 10 years had passed since the fierce war between the U.S. and Japan had come to an end, and there were various emotional entanglements between the citizens of both countries. In 1956, President Eisenhower called for the cultivation of sister-city relations as a means to promote international goodwill between citizens, and in response, many partnerships were formed between cities across America, Europe, and Japan. The sister-city relationship between Kobe and Seattle is one of the oldest between the U.S. and Japan. In addition, the Ports of Seattle and Kobe later went on to establish a sister-port relationship in May 1967. This year we will therefore be commemorating both 60 years of sister-city relations and 50 years of sister-port relations between our two cities. Of the 21 sister-city partnerships that Seattle has established, it is apparent that its relationship with Kobe is not only the oldest, but also one of the most active and successful. Musicians from both cities participate in each other’s jazz festivals, regular exchanges continue on many levels, including between city officials, and both cities have cultural exchange organizations that keep in close contact with one another. Hyogo Prefecture, where Kobe is located, and Washington State also established a sister-state relationship in 1963. Including Kobe, 13 cities in Hyogo have formed ties with cities in Washington.
In 1995, when Kobe was struggling with the catastrophic destruction caused by the Great Hanshin Earthquake, the city of Seattle and its citizens provided great help in the relief efforts. During that time, Seattle native Karin Zaugg Black, who is currently International Business Protocol Liaison at the Port of Seattle, was working at Kobe city hall through the JET Program. She put her German language skills to good use as an interpreter for rescue dog teams dispatched from Switzerland. Since then, Ms. Zaugg Black, Stacey Jehlik, her successor at Kobe city hall and now International Affairs Director for the City of Seattle, and Benjamin Erickson, Seattle-Kobe Sister City Association Chair, are currently Seattle’s key drivers for the friendly relations between our two cities. When I met Ms. Zaugg Black’s father, I received a business card from him that read simply “Karin’s Dad” in Japanese. That was enough to convey the necessary information to the Japanese delegation and it made me understand the deep connections between Kobe and Seattle. In May, Seattle City Council President Bruce Harrell and former State Senator Karen Fraser visited Kobe to celebrate the 60th anniversary of sister-city relations. In July, a friendship delegation from Kobe comprised of over 30 people including Kobe Deputy Mayor Toshiro Tamada, Kobe City Council President Kazuhiko Adachi and seven city council members, leaders of private enterprises based in Kobe, Goodwill Ambassador Haruno Mutagami, and the 18th Kobe Shinkaichi Jazz Vocal Queen Contest winner YUKA, visited Seattle. Deputy Mayor Tamada and the delegation visited prominent locations related to IT and Artificial Intelligence, and held a business seminar to promote Kobe’s attractive investment climate. After the Great Hanshin earthquake in 1995, Kobe revitalized its economy by focusing on industries related to the life sciences, medicine, pharmaceuticals, and welfare. Today, Kobe has become a hub for these industries, with over 300 related companies now based in the city. We see similar focus points in Seattle as well: the University of Washington is one of the country’s leading institutes for life science research, and medicine and pharmaceuticals are among the city’s major industries. In addition, several major NPOs that are leaders in the international health field are based in Seattle, including PATH and The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The similarities don’t stop there; both Kobe and Seattle are beautiful port cities surrounded by hills, with thriving economies, and possess open-minded and pioneering cultures. The two cities are both working to address common challenges, such as disaster preparedness, environmental and public health issues.
Photo Courtesy of Brian Chu Photography
Through the various events in which they participated, the Kobe delegation made a lasting impression on Seattle residents in displaying the strong friendship between the two cities. The City of Seattle and Port of Seattle provided a very warm welcome, and arranged many visits and events for the delegation. They even joined in the annual Torchlight Parade, which has been a Seattle tradition since 1953. As they waved to the crowd from their car, members of the delegation were featured on live TV, and greeted enthusiastically by spectators on the sidelines. At the Seattle Mariners game against the New York Mets the next day, Deputy Mayor Tamada donned a Mariners cap and jersey to throw the opening pitch. The following evening, YUKA performed at Jazz Alley and was joined by Tiia Freeman, winner of the high school division of this year’s Seattle-Kobe Female Jazz Vocalist Auditions. The delegation seemed to thoroughly enjoy being a part of the exciting and memorable festivities of Seattle’s Seafair, along with the citizens of their sister city.
In the history of their 60 years, Kobe and Seattle have exchanged valuable gifts. I heard that many Seattle citizens would agree that of all of Kobe’s gifts, Ichiro was the most valued by them. Ichiro was traded from the Kobe-based Orix Blue Waves baseball team to the Seattle Mariners in 2000. When Ichiro returned to his former home at Safeco Field to play against the Mariners in March of this year, he was greeted warmly with a standing ovation, which he later reciprocated by hitting a home run. I am one of the many fans eagerly hoping for the day that Ichiro might wear a Mariners uniform and play for us here once again.