The bond between the cities of Delaware and Sakata continues to strengthen after local officials spent the past several days hosting a delegation from its Japanese sister city.
“It’s been a really productive visit for them as well as for us,” said City Manager R. Thomas Homan.
Consisting of two Sakata officials — Hideo Kishiya, director of the Sakata City Library, and Hitoshi Nagata, director general of the Sakata Policy Promotion Department — the delegation arrived in Columbus on Nov. 2 and departed today.
During their visit, which was focused on arts and culture, the delegation toured and learned about The Arts Castle, Central Ohio Symphony, and Ohio Wesleyan University’s Ross Art Museum.
Homan, who was part of a delegation from Delaware that visited Sakata in April, said the stops focused on laying the groundwork for potentially bringing some aspects of the Japanese culture to Delaware to give residents the chance to learn more about their sister city counterparts.
While visiting OWU, talks centered around the possibility of the Ross Art Museum hosting an exhibit featuring one of Sakata’s most famous artists — the late Ken Domon — a renowned Japanese photographer with his own museum in Sakata.
In addition to the Domon exhibit, Homan said, officials at The Arts Castle discussed “exchanging community art between Delaware and Sakata,” while talks with the Central Ohio Symphony centered on possibly having taiko drum performers from Sakata participate in a future concert with the symphony.
Homan said whether or not any of the ideas come to fruition, local residents have been very welcoming to the two Sakata delegations that have visited over the past few years and seem interested in learning more about the Japanese culture.
“The community has been so positive and receptive of this (sister city) idea,” he said.
According to Kishiya, the feeling is mutual.
“There are so many things we can learn from (the American) culture and vice versa,” he said.
Additional stops, Thanksgiving dinner
While in Delaware, the Sakata delegation was treated to tours of local staples like the Strand Theatre and the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium.
While touring the zoo, the delegation was treated to an up close and personal interaction with a koala.
“It was very special,” Kishiya said.
On Monday, the delegation toured several city facilities, including Fire Station 303, the police station, and the water treatment plant.
While visiting the fire station, the men got to see the west side of Delaware from 96 feet above as the two caught a ride in the bucket on the city’s ladder truck.
In between their many stops, the delegation was treated on Saturday evening to a Thanksgiving dinner hosted by the Delaware Sister City Advisory Board at the Women’s City Club of Delaware.
Mayor Carolyn Kay Riggle said the decision to host a Thanksgiving dinner was spurred by the fact that turkey is difficult to come by in Japan, where it’s strictly imported. Also, many Japanese residences lack ovens or one big enough to cook such a large bird.
“For the Americans that are in Japan, they buy out Kentucky Fried Chicken because that’s the closest thing they can get to turkey,” Riggle said.
Kishiya added, “I think Japanese people would like to have turkey. The only problem is the oven.”
Differences in government, culture
Homan said in speaking with the delegation over the past few days, he learned several interesting tidbits about the Sakata government, including the fact there is a mandatory retirement age of 60 for all city employees.
He added the Sakata legislative body doesn’t meet monthly, but instead meets four times a year and each session lasts three to four weeks.
Homan also noted there is a “stronger relationship between the Japanese federal government and localities” as the federal government provides funding to local governments.
City Attorney Darren Shulman and Community Affairs Coordinator Lee Yoakum, both of whom interviewed the delegation for their “Delaware City Digest” segment on 1550 WDLR (will air at 9:30 a.m. on Nov. 24), shared they learned a thing or two from their conversations with the men.
“I found it particularly interesting that their city government runs the library and the school district,” Shulman said.
Yoakum said he learned Sakata is dealing with an issue that’s commonplace in many Ohio cities where educated citizens leave after college for bigger cities like Tokyo.
“We see some of that ‘brain drain’ here in Delaware and central Ohio,” Yoakum said. “I think there is an opportunity for both cities to work together on this issue.”