Celebrating 50 years with Everett’s sister city in Japan

EVERETT — Get ready for a cultural journey Friday when Japanese artists celebrate Everett’s special relationship with their hometown across the Pacific Ocean.

The free, public performance by traditional musicians, dancers and calligraphers marks the 50th anniversary of Everett’s sister-city ties with Iwakuni, Japan.

“This is a very special occasion to be able to see that many traditional Japanese cultural performances at once,” said Mayumi Smith, director of the Nippon Business Institute at Everett Community College.

This week’s festivities follow a visit to Everett in July by a high-level delegation from Iwakuni.

Iwakuni Mayor Yoshihiko Fukuda was one of more than 50 people from the city expected to visit Everett this week.

Friday’s program includes: dancers Kanmitsu Fujima and Toshizu Fujima; the playing of the Japanese instruments, the shamisen and koto, under the direction of Hidekiyo Fujimoto and Kachiho Miyamoto; and a calligraphy demonstration by Kinun Morisato.

“It’s going to be a very spectacular event,” said Kathleen Koss, program coordinator for the Nippon Business Institute.

The artists also plan to perform Friday at Everett’s Whittier Elementary School.

Iwakuni is about 30 miles south of Hiroshima, on the island of Honshu. Like Everett, it has a port, a U.S. military base and a history of paper manufacturers.

Everett and Iwakuni were among the first 200 cities to join Sister Cities International. The affiliation was founded by Marine Corps Maj. E.R. “Bud” Agnew of Everett, who was stationed in Iwakuni, and Midori Sagami, an English teacher there.

Over the years, Everett Community College took a larger role in maintaining the ties. Today, it offers courses on Japanese language, economics, business and culture.

The college’s Nippon Business Institute since 1996 has run exchange programs for high school students from Iwakuni. The institute’s garden includes donated pieces from Iwakuni’s rebuilt Kintai Bridge, which originally dates from 1600s.

Everett isn’t alone in promoting business and cultural relationships between Snohomish County and Japan.

The Port of Everett forged a relationship with Ishinomaki since the early 1990s when both were heavily involved in shipping logs. The Port of Everett is no longer in the log exporting business, but the relationship has endured. Ishinomaki was heavily damaged during Japan’s March 2011 earthquake and tsunami.

Edmonds and Hekinan, Japan, since 1988 have fostered educational and cultural exchanges. The ties have led to pen pals at local schools, a teacher traveling to Hekinan to teach English and books in Japanese at the Edmonds library.

Noah Haglund: 425-339-3465; nhaglund@heraldnet.com.

Help celebrate

Everett and Iwakuni, Japan, are celebrating 50 years as sister cities from 1 to 2:30 p.m. Friday.

The free event will be at Everett Community College’s Henry M. Jackson Conference Center, 2000 Tower St., Everett. All are welcome to attend.

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