Summerland enjoys a long standing active and reciprocal relationship with her Japanese sister city, Toyokoro.
Toyokoro is a small agriculturally based community on the north island of Hokkaido which puts it almost directly across from Portland Oregon when you look at it from a latitudinal perspective on the map.
This September, 14 adult residents and five Summerland youth will embark on an amazing adventure as they head for Japan to represent Summerland in Toyokoro.
The 12-day excursion will depart Kelowna, drop down into Vancouver, cross the Pacific where the travellers will make a quick connection in South Korea before the final leg of their air journey to Sapporo, Japan.
After a couple of days to adjust in Sapporo the delegation will continue by train for the scenic three-hour cross country trek to the city of Obihiro where they’ll be met by their hosts from Toyokoro which is less than an hour away by car.
By this point in the trip, delegates will have crossed an international date line, experienced an overseas long-haul flight, discovered the cosmopolitan diversity found in Japan’s fifth largest city, Sapporo, and been welcomed “home” to Toyokoro by some of the most hospitable people they’ll ever have the good fortune to meet.
The residents of Toyokoro will host the Summerland delegation for a total of five days and nights that will be filled with cultural excursions, formal celebrations that recognize the ongoing commitment of our two communities and members of both city councils, invitations into the lives and the homes of our Japanese extended family, and memories that will last a lifetime.
The sister city excursions travel biannually to Japan and on alternate years there is a delegation from Toyokoro that visits Summerland.
Summerland residents and youth travelling to Toyokoro are self-funded and participate in some basic cross cultural education in preparation for the travel prior to departing for Japan.
The benefits of this relationship to Summerland and her residents are abundant.
Ask anyone who has made the trek and they’ll tell you that it was the trip of a lifetime, that they experienced a welcome more sincere than they imagined possible, and that they encourage anyone who is even remotely interested in travelling to Japan, to access this opportunity as it provides a glimpse inside the lives of the real people and a taste of the true traditional culture that comes only with a visit to a place where the people open their homes and their hearts to you.
In addition to the potential for this cultural exchange, there are also economic benefits present. Toyokoro regularly purchases ‘made in Summerland’ product in honour of their town’s Sister City commitment.
During the biannual visits from Toyokoro their delegates also embrace the opportunity to ‘shop local’ in support of our business community.
Toyokoro also continues to employ one of Summerland’s own youth as an assistant English teacher in Toyokoro.
This year, Anna Marshall arrived in Toyokoro to begin her year as an AET in July.
Readers will have the opportunity to get a glimpse into her life in Toyokoro through her letters from Toyokoro that she will be submitting to the Review for regular publication.
The economic benefits are good and the cultural experiences are great. There is one more benefit that occurs when our Mayor and Council have the opportunity to meet with their counterparts in Toyokoro.
They have the chance to look at common challenges our communities face and to discuss the creative solutions that each has employed.
This international perspective is unique and not available in any other format. It provides our mayor and council with information they might not get from any other source, it enables them to see issues through new eyes, and to explore new ways of doing business.
If you’re interested in learning more about the Summerland Sister City Society, contact Darlene Forsdick at 250-494-9489 or Lorrie Forde at 250-494-9644. There are opportunities to host a Japanese student in your home (average length of stay is five days), to travel to Japan with the next delegation, to volunteer as a host when Toyokoro next visits Summerland, or to be mentored into a director’s position on the Sister City Society Board.