In October 1991, Oregon established a sister state relationship with Toyama Prefecture. Toyama, located in the heart of Japan, is a doorway to the Japan Sea region. The landscape ranges from the spectacular Northern Japanese Alps to the historic farmhouses in the UNESCO world heritage site of Gokayama. It is also a mecca for international theater arts, annually hosting the Toga World Theatre Festival founded by Tadashi Suzuki, and the World Festival of Children’s Performing Arts.
President Dwight D. Eisenhower introduced the U.S. Sister City Program in 1956 calling it the “People-to-People Program.” The premise of the program was that cities sharing similarities like population, industry, or art would find ways to form partnerships which would create an international atmosphere of understanding and respect. Portland established its first formal sister city relationship with Sapporo, the capital of Hokkaido Prefecture, the northern most island of Japan, in 1959.This is one of the oldest relationships in the United States.
Sapporo is the fourth-largest city in Japan and has been know for Sapporo beer and as the first Asian city to host the Winter Olympics (’72). Each February, Sapporo holds an international Snow Festival attracting thousands of tourists. Portland has sent many delegations to this festival, and in 2005, a high school group from the Japanese Immersion Program in Portland participated in this annual event.
Portland-Sapporo Sister City Association: www.portland-sapporo.org
Throughout the year, students from several Japanese schools visit Portland. Oya No Kai, Inc. sponsors these inbound exchanges by coordinating home stays, activities for students and chaperones, and school visits. Often these groups are from our sister schools where Japanese Immersion Program students have visited during their 5th, 8th, and high school cultural exchanges. Richmond Elementary, Mt. Tabor Middle School, and Grant High School all host visiting groups.
Katoh School, Numazu-city, Shizuoka prefecture
Katoh School is a private K-12 school and the first school in Japan to offer English immersion. In 1992, Katoh staff contacted Portland Public Schools to request a tour of Richmond and to discuss its model program. In 1993, Richmond Principal Rene Ito-Staub and Japanese Resource teacher Deanne Balzer visited Katoh School and forged a lasting relationship between the two schools. The following year, Katoh School began sending teachers to Richmond to study the Japanese Immersion Program’s model. Today, students from Katoh school visit Portland every October, staying with host families from Richmond and the city of Beaverton, Oregon. In exchange, Richmond 5th graders are hosted by Katoh families in the summer.
School webpage: http://www.katoh-net.ac.jp/Elementary/
English website: http://www.bi-lingual.com/school/INFO/aboutus.html
Fukuno Elementary, Nanto-city (formerly Fukuno-city), Toyama prefecture and Fukumitsu, Fukuno, & Yoshie Junior High Schools, Nanto-city, Toyama prefecture
Fukuno Elementary is a public elementary school serving first through sixth grade. Former school administrator, Mr. Toru Saino, first came to Portland in 1989. Over the years, his connection with Portland made way for the cultural exchange between Richmond and Fukuno. Oya No Kai is grateful to its friend, Mr. Saino, who continues to coordinate this cultural exchange some 14 years later. Richmond 5th graders visit Nanto every June and in return, Mt. Tabor Middle School receives Fukuno 8th grade students from three Nanto junior high schools in late October.
Fukuno School webpage: http://www.tym.ed.jp/sc230/
Sumaura Elementary, Kobe-city, Hyogo prefecture
In response to the devastating Kobe earthquake in 1995, Richmond students raised money through a penny drive called “Friends Care for Their Friends” to send to the children of the ravaged city. The local YMCA facilitated the introduction to Sumaura Elementary School, a 110-year-old private K-6 school. As part of this cultural exchange arrangement, 6th grade students from Sumaura School along with their principal, Mr. Yamamoto, visit Portland in February each year. In June, Richmond 5th graders have home stays with families in the Kobe area and participate in the school’s annual music festival.
School webpage: http://www.sumaura.ed.
Cultural Exchange between Sumaura and Richmond: http://www.sumaura.ed.jp/international/international.html
Miyanomori School, Sapporo, Hokkaido
In 2005, as part of a Portland delegation to the Sapporo Snow Festival, Richmond Principal Abby Myer visited Miyanomori School. She met with its principal, Mr. Hirata, about their plans to develop a 4th, 5th, and 6th grade English language program and agreed for Richmond to become its sister school. The first delegate of Richmond students went to Sapporo in 2010, with a return visit in 2012 and a planned visit in 2014.
Yanase Junior High School and Ikuno Middle School, Asago-city (previously Santo-city), Hyogo prefecture
Located in mountain valley towns and surrounded by rich history and nature, Yanase and Ikuno Middle High Schools offer a truly rural Japanese experience. Michael Bacon, PPS Immersion Education Coordinator, was the first native English teacher at Yanase Middle School from 1990-1993. His connection with a local organization called the Santo International Cultural Exchange Association paved the way for a new relationship between our two communities. Since 1998, Portland has welcomed families and students from these two schools, (Ikuno joining in 2008).
Sapporo Area High Schools, Hokkaido
Sapporo, Japan, and Portland have been sister cities since 1959, making this one of the oldest sister-city relationships in the country. In March 2013, Grant High School will once again welcome a delegation of students from 8 Sapporo area high schools.