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Santa Monica Celebrates 40th Anniversary with Sister City in Japan

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Convention and Visitors Bureau Santa Monica

By Niki Cervantes
Staff Writer

August 18, 2015 -- There was sake, youth soccer and international travel this month as the City of Santa Monica celebrated four decades of friendship with its Japanese sister city of Fujinomiya, on the flanks of  Mt. Fuji.

“We in Santa Monica value with gratitude the strong ties we have created in the arts, sports, music, education, and cultural exchanges,” said Santa Monica Mayor Kevin McKeown, a member of the delegation that traveled to the Japanese city last week.

The week-long trip, which ended Monday, was authorized by the Santa Monica City Council in April, which authorized the use of Council travel funds.  It was unclear how much was authorized.

Also on the trip were officials from the Santa Monica Sister City Association, which is in charge of the sister-city program. The celebration included high school students who hosted three students from Fujinomiya in July and were to spend two weeks with their counterparts in Japan this month.

A youth soccer team from Santa Monica also made the trip, along with an adult delegation, to compete in a soccer tournament. In all, McKeown said, the  trip included between 50 and 60 people.

McKeown joined Fujinomiya Mayor Hidetada Sudo in that city's Santa Monica Park for the unveiling of twin friendship benches.  Later, Santa Monica visitors joined their Fujinomiya hosts for an anniversary banquet, where special presentations were made to Santa Monica Sister City Association President Jeff Jarow and former Santa Monica Mayor Nat Trives, who started the sister city program.

The City of Santa Monica established its sister city link with Fujinomiya in 1975. Santa Monica’s sister cities also include – The city’s first such partnership, with Mazatlan, Mexico, dates back to 1961. Hamm, Germany and Cassino and Sant’Elia in Italy also are Santa Monica sister cities.

Created at President Eisenhower’s 1956 White House conference on citizen diplomacy, Sister Cities International now includes 2 ,000 cities, states and counties partnered with 136 countries around the world. The program was envisioned as a way to create bonds between people of different cultures from around the world.

“Sister Cities International creates relationships based on cultural, educational, information and trade exchanges, creating lifelong friendships that provide prosperity and peace through person-to-person 'citizen diplomacy,'” its website says.

U.S. Presidents since the Eisenhower era have served as honorary chairmen of Sister Cities International.

Fujinomiya and Santa Monica have exchanged visible signs of friendship and respect in other, very concrete ways. A street on the north side of Santa Monica City Hall is named for the Japanese city, while Fujinomiya is home to Santa Monica Park.

The celebrations in Japan included a ritual Kagami-Biraki (sake cask cracking) and toast, McKeown said.

McKeown told the host committee and Fujinomiya mayor, “I have enjoyed meeting your students who visited Santa Monica.  It is a strong and supportive community in Fujinomiya that has raised such excellent young people.”

He also said young people were a “focus of the week’s festivities”   with Santa Monica sending a Santa Monica  youth soccer team to participate in the “Fujisan Cup” soccer tournament being held in Fujinomiya.

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