|Ever wonder why Katano Japan is our Sister City? What is the relationship all about? Well we were lucky enough to find out. This year marked the 25th anniversary of Collingwood’s Sister City Relationship with Katano Japan and we went on a 10-day trip group trip that included a home stay with a Japanese family.
This was certainly an excellent opportunity to dive right into another culture starting the moment we stepped off the plane. Immediately struck by the warm reception it made me very proud to be from Collingwood.
|Clearly the Katano Collingwood Sister City Association had gone through great lengths to prepare for our visit and we felt very honoured and special. Another thing that was abundantly clear was that there were members from both of our groups who have taken great care to ensure that the relationship ties remained strong over the past 25 years paving the way for a bright future.
Arriving late at night and exhausted we were quickly officially welcomed, all 22 of us wearing green slippers…and then we were whisked off with our host families to get settled in for our home stay. Out came the refreshments, chopsticks and tofu…then the futons on tatami mats.
Getting dressed the next morning presented a challenge in itself…there was no where to sit down to put your socks on…thus starting a funny balancing…hopping demonstration…and then plunking down on the futon to get the job done.
The next culture shocker was breakfast…Miso soup with tofu, fried tofu, spinach with eggs and a whole fish with Nemo’s lucky fin still attached. I believe this may have been a western version of Japanese breakfast…they were going easy on us for our first day. Funny though, I could swear I smelled toast coming from somewhere in the kitchen. It would be 3 more breakfasts before we got bold enough to ask for a BLT.
The next few days of our trip were jammed with a tight schedule that enabled us to experience so much Japanese culture on so many different levels…from the youth to the seniors, modern and ancient cultures intertwined. We visited a school and were very impressed with the sense of pride, ownership and respect each student has for themselves, their teachers and their school. Get this…every single day both the students and teachers work together to clean the school from top to bottom, including polishing the floors and raking leaves out in the yard. Can you imagine the backlash from parents, students and teachers alike if we even tried to implement this in our schools?
We got to experience making Udon noodles from scratch…this was lots of fun and then we ate lunch with the school children in their classrooms…I am still not sure what was in one of the dishes on my tray…but I ate it anyways…it was kind of squishy. I can tell you that lunch was nutritious and organized…and all students ate all of the food that was put in front of them, participated in the serving and clean-up…how refreshing is that?
A visit to a senior’s community centre, much like our leisure time centre presented us with the opportunity to wear Kimonos and watch a variety of dance and music performances. We were very touched by the tremendous amount of rehearsing and preparation for our arrival.
Trips to Saki factories, shrines and temples filled the next few days, but what was more impressive than the points of interest was the amount of work and preparation the volunteers in the Sister City Committee had done to ensure cultural enrichment…they all took turns giving us detailed explanations of each attraction in English.
John Wilson, Co-Chair of our Sister City Committee, Gloria Emo, Peter Dunbar and Mayor Chris Carrier share their knowledge and experience regarding the relationship with Katano and the people. So if you’ve always wondered what was up with this Sister City Relationship…pay attention…this says it all.
"At the national level both Canada and Japan have stressed the importance of working to increase cultural relations at all levels. The first Sister City relationship with Japan and Canada was between New Westminster, British Columbia and Moriguchi, Japan and started in December, 1962. Collingwood's and Katano's Sister City relationship started in November, 1981 when Mr. Ron Emo was mayor. Mr. Gordon Norris traveled to Japan to sign the official twining declaration. We are now one of 62 Canadian town or cities to have a Japanese Sister City.
The main objective of the sister city program is "to promote goodwill and friendship between two communities and, through mutual understanding to contribute to world peace and the welfare of humanity". We have found the people of Katano to be warm, friendly and generous people who want to learn about our community and our way of life. Many Collingwood people have developed deep and lasting friendships and have had experiences and opportunities which they would not have had without this sister city relationship. The future opportunities are only limited by ourselves.
There have been many exchange trips and also twinning of organizations between the two sister cities. The Rotary Clubs, Girl Guides, Boy Scouts are twined. Trips to Katano by the CCI Jazz Band, (CCI Jazz band is planning a return trip in 2009) Boy Scouts and Girl Guides. Katano trips to Collingwood include A Tennis Club, Madoline Orchestra, Boy Scouts, and Girl Guides. There have also been many youth groups and adult groups exchanged. There have also been a number of student exchanges lasting from 5 months up to a year." – John Wilson
"How wonderful the friendship has been since the Twinning & what a great experience it has been for visitors from each country. Our friendship stems from Taekeo (the 1st student) spending a year with us - our daughter returning exchange then, Taeko returning as a Bridesmaid at our daughter's wedding (her whole family came for that weekend and dressed in their Traditional Japanese Wedding clothes).
My daughter, son-in- law, second son and I then went to Taeko's Wedding in Osaka - it goes on and on…plus we have hosted visitors several times and have experienced them (and us too) in tears when they had to return home - anyone you speak to who has visited Katano or had visitors will tell you the same thing - they are the most amazing, polite people I have ever met and I know your experience will be a wonderful one too". - Gloria Emo
"My first exposure was to help create a park, the theme began a life long interest in Japan. I met a great person (Yoshihiko Nishihikawa) who still keeps me engaged in his family and his own life experiences. Katano is full of fabulous history but more important a very rich sister city committee who go to great efforts in their hospitality. The time spent here and there with my Japanese friends is a treasure for me and has enriched my life." - Peter Dunbar
"Colleen and I had a tremendous time. All of our hosts went well beyond expectations to make us comfortable.
One of the most significant events (and there are many) for me was when we attended the Community Centre to watch and listen to traditional Japanese music, dance and story telling incorporating both music and dance. There were 22 of us plus our hosts, plus a number of senior citizens. As the afternoon went on many school age children joined us in listening to the various presentations. During the performance of one particular traditional song many of the senior Japanese and the very young started singing along with entertainer on stage. You could tell this song held significant cultural value to them.
We had three generations of Japanese and Canadians sharing a very special performance in a very special place, Katano Japan our Sister City.
I found the moment to very moving, it struck a chord with me and will be a memory for a lifetime that I will cherish." – Mayor Chris Carrier
It’s hard to jam all of our experiences into a short web article, so I hope I am doing this tremendous experience justice or at the very least peaking your interest. You can look at hundreds of photos from our trip in our Community Photo Gallery.
The folks from Katano will be visiting us for Collingwood’s 150th anniversary celebration…so if you’re interested in becoming part of the relationship or would like to open your home to host a visitor or two from Japan, let me know and I will send your request to Gloria Emo.
This trip was an experience of a lifetime and the beginning of new personal relationships for all of us with our host families. Step up to the plate…become interested and get involved. You will only benefit and have lots of fun along the way.
I feel like I have a Japanese mommy on the other side of the world now. I feel lucky and thankful for this experience.
Special thanks to Dr. David Ripley for telling us about this opportunity and also to Keiko Yoden for arranging and co-ordinating the home stays. Keiko did an excellent job ensuring that personalities and personal preferences were well matched with our home stay families.
If you have any questions about the trip, the relationship with Katano or how you can become involved, please send me your inquiry and I will be pleased to help get your questions answered via the Sister City Committee.