Tadao Mita doesn’t speak English but he knew just what to say when asked for his impression of Nelson during his first trip to Canada.
“Nice location,” he said without the help of his translator.
Mita, the chair of the city council in Izu-shi, Japan, was part of a delegation visiting from Nelson’s sister-city this week to mark the 30th anniversary of relations between the two communities.
Nelson sent its own delegation to Izu-shi in March, but this time it was Nelson’s turn to host a nine-person group that also included Izu-shi Mayor Yutaka Kikuchi.
The visitors arrived Friday, met with locals, toured the region and were also on hand Monday afternoon to open the new Nelson Izu-shi Friendship Society gate into the Japanese gardens at Cottonwood Falls.
The ceremony featured speeches by people such as Atsumi Kurosu, who has previously hosted Nelson students on their trips to Izu-shi, a Japanese dance by visitors Anna Takane and Minami Suzuki, Indigenous dancing and the sharing of memories made over 30 years.
“I think when we were in Japan, we were treated like royalty,” said Mayor Deb Kozak. “People were so very kind and showed so many things and it is wonderful to be able to return that to our guests today.”
Kozak and Kikuchi shared a car when the delegation made a trip to the Nikkei Internment Memorial Centre in New Denver on Sunday. During that trip the pair found they had plenty to discuss.
“We share similar problems,” said Kikuchi, who speaks English and was making his second trip to Nelson. “Especially in Japan we are facing an elderly society. More and more aged people, fewer and fewer young babies, young generations, which makes the Japanese economy worse and worse. In order to face it, we need I think new technology.
“The Canadian community is willing to accept immigration, but Japanese society is not yet ready to accept foreign people as workers or a partner in society. This is a small difference between two communities, but other problems we share. So it helps me to talk with her very much.”
Nelson’s relationship with Izu-shi began in 1987 when the city was then called Shuzenji. Former Mayor Gerald Rotering was brainstorming ways to revitalize the local economy when a friend suggested reaching out to Japan. That led to an influx of 700 Japanese students, with plenty of Nelson students also making the trip to Izu-shi.
There are 72 communities in Canada with connections to Japan. Thirty years later, Nelson’s friendship with Izu-shi remains strong and, in Kikuchi’s opinion, as vital as ever.
“In this era, which is very unstable in the world, close relations between communities among the nations become more important than before I believe.”