(Editor’s note: The Renton Reporter asked City Council member Randy Corman to write about his experience on an exchange to Nishiwaki, Japan, with a delegation from Renton.
Last month I had the privilege of representing the City of Renton to visit the city of Nishiwaki in Japan. I was joined by 15 other Renton-area residents and we had the unique opportunity to foster the sister-city relationship that we have enjoyed with Nishiwaki since 1969. We all paid for our own travel expenses.
Nishiwaki is at the geometric center of Japan and has about 43,000 people. As the official city representative, I had the opportunity to meet Mayor Kishi and Nishiwaki’s council members. At a wonderful ceremony at Nishiwaki’s city hall, we shared greetings and gifts. Mayor Kishi presented Renton with a Kakejiku, a colorful banner with the image of the crane, symbolizing long life. The Kobe News ran a story about the Renton delegation’s visit to Nishiwaki. Our city sends delegations to Nishiwaki every four or five years, and in turn, we host a delegation from Nishiwaki between our visits.
These exchanges between our cities foster understanding, a sharing of ideas and friendship between our cities. These official visits are also fun and educational for the participants. This was my first sister-city trip, and I was touched by the warm welcome we received. The citizens of Nishiwaki generously opened their homes to us for lodging and meals, so each delegate enjoyed authentic Japanese living and being part of a Nishiwaki household.
My wife, daughter and I stayed in a beautiful and tra-
ditional Japanese home, with amazing woodwork throughout, tatami mats on the floors, sliding screen dividers, wood-burning heat, and beautiful ornamental and vegetable gardens. We even slept on the floor, on very comfortable mats and blankets.
The home also incorporated modern technology, such as motorized kitchen shelving that lowered for access, a combined microwave and gas oven, an on-demand water heater and an electric composter for kitchen trash.
Our host family fed us phenomenally well, with home-grown and forest-gathered plants and vegetables, local rice, mouth-watering beef and fish, and other local fare incorporated into excellent dishes by their mastery in the kitchen.
We enjoyed field trips throughout Nishiwaki, including a visit to their earth science museum, art gallery, history museum, and other parks and facilities. We learned about Nishiwaki’s industry, which includes nationally recognized textiles and fly-fishing lures.
We also traveled to nearby cities, such as Kyoto, to see shrines, temples and museums. The scenery was stunning and historic, and sometimes looked surreal with all the cherry blossoms in full-bloom. The cherry petals filled the air like snowflakes when the wind blew. We also visited a castle in Himeji that has been made famous by many Hollywood movies.
Of all my great memories, the most vivid of all is the warmth and kindness of the people of Nishiwaki, who welcomed us with open arms and made our visit comfortable, organized, educational, and a whole lot of fun. We can cherish these memories forever and enjoy the long lasting friendships that we’ve made.
If you would like to participate in the sister-city program in the future, please contact Sonya Mejlaender at the City of Renton, at 425-430-6514 or by email at email@example.com.