Port Alberni, B.C. and Abashiri, Hokkaido Prefecture, Japan reaffirmed their twinning relationship with a ceremony at Port Alberni’s city hall on Friday afternoon (July 13, 2012).
Abashiri Mayor Yoichi Mizutani, city councillor Mr. Kudo and president of the sister city society Mr. Umemoto and a dozen other Abashiri residents arrived in Port Alberni for the ceremony.
Since 1986, 820 Abashiri students and 400 Port Alberni students have crossed the Pacific Ocean on cultural exchanges between the two cities, Mizutani said. Another group of students as well as a mixed hockey team will return to Port Alberni in January 2013.
“It’s very important we have this wonderful relationship with the country of Japan and with the city of Abashiri,” Port Alberni Mayor John Douglas said. “We hope to maintain and to cultivate our relationship with our sister city and through that to strengthen our bond between Canada and Japan.”
Douglas and Mizutani signed a reaffirmation of the twinning agreement.
“On behalf of the City of Abashiri and the citizens of Abashiri, I would like to extend heartfelt gratitude to all of you who donated money, goods and time for the disaster relief fundraising for the earthquake in Japan last year,” Mizutani said.
“We are all impressed by your thoughtfulness.”
Abashiri officials received donations from Port Alberni on May 19, 2011, and the money was given to the Japan Red Cross Society, he said. Money donated from the Port Alberni Salvation Army was directed to the Salvation Army Japan in Tokyo, also in May last year.
“We would also like to thank Roxy Manson (of Port Alberni), who donated money for Japan’s victims instead of her birthday presents last year. It was very touching,” Mizutani said.
“Roxy’s presents have been sent to children in Miyako City, which was attacked by the tsunami.”
Consulate-General of Japan Hideki Ito was also in attendance, which Mizutani said was a great honour for his Japanese city.
Ito said this was his second visit to Port Alberni. “I’m very happy to be here,” he said. Port Alberni and Abashiri’s sister city relationship is one of 34 in British Columbia, and Ito said those Canadian communities mobilized quickly to help their counterparts after the devastating earthquake and resultant tsunami in March 2011 that killed thousands of people and destroyed whole cities.
He is trying to visit as many sister cities as possible to further promote twinning relationships, he said.
Ito said his government has been in discussions with both the provincial and federal governments over how Canada will handle the ensuing arrival of debris from the Japanese tsunami. While U.S. officials have set aside money to map and recover tsunami debris, the B.C. government has not.
Ito said Japan is working with the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) for reuniting people in Japan with their possessions. Items must meet three criteria in order for this process to take place, Ito said: the item has to be from Japan, it has to be identifiable (i.e. a name or licence plate) and the object has to have value “not only in price but in feelings.”
A ‘sayonara’ dinner for the Abashiri delegation will be held Saturday night at Echo Centre on Wallace Street, then the visitors will return to Vancouver on Sunday for some sightseeing in that city before returning home.
Edited July 17, 2012 to correct spelling of Hideki Ito.