Delaware City Council chambers were filled Monday night for a special meeting in which Delaware and Sakata, Japan, signed a resolution of cooperation as sister cities.
Twenty-two exchange students attending Dempsey Middle School were at the meeting, along with their host families. They were introduced to City Council members and city officials, to applause. Since 1997, 373 students from Sakata have visited Delaware, and Dempsey students visited Sakata for the first time last year.
However, for the first time, a delegation of politicians and educators from Sakata are also visiting Delaware. The delegation included Rika Abe, assistant chief of the International Exchange Section; Koji Hori, vice chairman of Sakata City Council; Ken Matsuta, professor at Tohoku University; Kotaro Murakami, superintendent of education for Sakata City; and Tetsuo Yoshikawa, vice chairman of the Sakata Chamber of Commerce.
There were presentations about each city, and it was noted that together, they had the world’s best manufacturers of diapers, with Domtar in Delaware and Kao Corp. in Sakata.
Sakata is a port city in the Sea of Japan northeast of Tokyo. Founded in 1933, the city merged with the surrounding towns of Hirata, Matsuyama and Yawata in 2005. The population is more than 107,000. Sakata’s natural features include Tobishima Island, the Mogami River and Mount Chokai. Melting snow from the mountain help with the area’s rice crops.
Among the annual events that take place in Sakata is a fireworks festival and a parade that features the city’s mascots, two lions. It was said that young children are placed in the mouths of the lions to be “nibbled” on for good fortune, although the kids often cry beforehand. The Japanese gave Mayor Carolyn Kay Riggle and City Council members paperweights of the lions.
Also at the meeting, the Pledge of Allegiance was given, and the Japanese sang their national anthem. Presents were exchanged, such as the new Delaware flag, artwork by Mary Morrison, and stamps that represented U.S.-Japanese friendship. That friendship began with the gift of cherry blossom trees to Washington, D.C., in 1912; and the gift of flowering dogwoods to Tokyo in 1915.
The meeting ended when a “Sister City” Japanese maple tree was planted by the Sakata delegation and City Council members in front of City Hall.
The exchange students and Sakata delegation were both scheduled to fly out of Port Columbus today.
Gary Budzak may be reached at 740-413-0904 or on Twitter @GaryBudzak.