EDMONDS — Three times every year, people from Edmonds or Hekinan, Japan, pack up a delegation in one city and fly it across the Pacific Ocean to the other.
More than 1,000 people have made the trek in the 20 years since Edmonds and Hekinan became sister cities.
Usually, it leads to fun. Sometimes it leads to friendship. Once, it led to marriage.
Generally, the travelers work to bridge their divides — an ocean, a language, a culture — to seek kinship and understanding.
Now, after 20 years of cultural exchanges, officials from both cities are preparing to celebrate.
Hekinan’s mayor, its city council chairman and many of its citizens were to arrive in Edmonds on Monday as part of a weeklong visit commemorating the long relationship. The Edmonds City Council plans to honor the delegation and the 20th anniversary at its meeting tonight.
Hekinan is a port city with more than 70,000 residents near Nagoya, Japan.
“For some cities, a (sister city relationship) is just a plaque on the wall, or maybe it’s a letter that is sent back and forth,” said Jim Corbett, who sits on Edmonds’ Sister City commission. “But I do not think there are many cities that send a delegation every year, and receive two.”
Sometimes, love flourishes.
An American high school student went to Hekinan on an exchange a few years ago and met a Japanese girl. She visited Edmonds, also on an exchange, and then decided to attend Edmonds Community College.
Pretty soon, the two were married. The couple had two weddings — one here, one there.
“The exchange can be a life-altering event,” said Corbett, who wrote about the couple in a Sister City newsletter earlier this year.
For sure, the relationship between Edmonds and Hekinan is a remarkable achievement, said Edmonds Mayor Gary Haakenson, who has visited Hekinan twice.
“It is a big deal,” Haakenson said. “It transcends politics and countries. It is just people.”
Chris Fyall is editor of the Edmonds Enterprise.