The Izu-Shi Friendship Society plans to celebrate its 30th anniversary next year by taking a delegation to Nelson’s sister city, Izu-shi, Japan, and bringing an Izu-shi delegation here.
These trips are intended to reignite the friendship society and revitalize the sister-city relationship, the group’s John Armstrong told city council on September 18.
The group was formed when Nelson began its sister-city relationship with Izu-shi (then known as Shuzenji) in 1987. Both cities built a park in each other’s honour: Cottonwood Falls Park in Nelson and a Nelson park in Izushi that features a miniature orange bridge. The friendship society maintains the park under the leadership of Jim Sawada, with the help of the city’s public works department.
Armstrong outlined some events the society has organized in the past year in its attempt to rekindle public interest:
• Traditional cherry blossom viewing, or ohanami, at the Friendship Garden in Cottonwood Falls Park in the spring.
• A booth at Canada Day with children’s activities including origami and other cultural activities, and information for adults that drew a lot of interest from adults with various connections to Japan.
• A mid-August obon picnic, which is a traditional time when people return to home towns and honour their ancestors, with songs and obon dance at Lakeside Park.
• A moon viewing — a Japanese seasonal celebration that invites people to write haiku – at the September 16 full moon at the dock at the foot of Hall St.
Jim Sawada, the originator and long-time caretaker of the Friendship Garden at work in the spring of 2016. Bill Metcalfe photo.
The group’s next event will be an afternoon gathering in the Friendship Garden sometime in October to view the autumn leaves.
For many years the cities hosted annual student exchanges, but in recent years with increasing travel expenses and with the earthquake in Japan in 2011, those exchanges stopped.
The society wants to take a multi-generational multi-sector delegation to Isushi in 2017.
“And we would like to work with the city to host members of a return delegation to Nelson next year during the summer,” Armstrong said.
For both trips, and for similar trips in the future, the group would like to involve community groups from both cities, he said.
“For example, Izu-shi is famous for its cycling. It has a popular biking park and velodrome and mountain biking trails. Because of this reputation for cycling, Izu-shi will host some of the events for the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics, so we would like to invite representatives of our cycling communities to join us in going to Japan to explore the mountain biking trails and cycling routes, and introduce our local trails to them on a return visit.”
Armstrong said Isu-shi is also known for agricultural products such as wasabi and mushrooms “and we would like to encourage connections with local food growers and market gardeners as well as food and beverage producers.”
He said that retired people are a significant part of Japan’s population and he sees the possibility for exchanges with Nelson seniors. And he said there are connections to be made at hiking trails and hot springs, and in the arts.
“I wonder about the streaming of local dance performances,” Armstrong said.
He also held out the possibility of re-starting student exchanges.
Armstrong said the friendship society would not be the main organizers of these initiatives but would like to help to facilitate them, in partnership with other groups.