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Japan trip honors sister city anniversary

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Japan trip honors sister city anniversary
The group in the background performed an ancient Japanese dance during a sister city reception in Kitakami, Japan. Front row from left, Kitakami Ambassadors president Akira Ito, Concord Ambassadors president Mike Pastrick, Justin Gerdes, Concord Councilwoman Carlyn Obringer, Kitakami Mayor Toshihiko Takahashi, Concord Mayor Tim McGallian, Concord Councilman Dominic Aliano and Andrew McGallian.

In October, members from the Concord City Council, the Concord Ambassadors and the Concord community traveled to Kitakami, Japan, to celebrate the 45th sister city anniversary.

Court Kirkeeng of Concord and Zenji Katagata of Kitakami formed the relationship in 1974 after meeting at a conference. The two cable TV executives quickly became friends and eventually persuaded their city leaders to approve the sister city relationship.

In 2019, it was Concord’s turn to send a delegation to Kitakami. The group included current Mayor Tim McGallian, Councilwoman Carlyn Obringer, myself and about 20 members of the Concord community. President Mike Pastrick and board members represented the Concord Ambassadors, an all-volunteer, non-profit organization that maintains the sister city relationship through education, culture, social affairs and economics.

It is hard to put my feelings into words because I felt euphoric every moment of this trip. The city of Kitakami welcomed us with a warm embrace, leaving us with experiences that we will remember for a lifetime. We learned about the Japanese culture through food, ancient and traditional rituals, conversations with locals, museum visits and by spending a couple of nights with our house hosts.

The opening ceremony at city hall and the welcome dinner featured greetings from Kitakami Mayor Toshihiko Takahashi and the president of the Japanese Ambassadors. Obringer, who was our mayor at the time, and Pastrick spoke on our behalf to let the Kitakami residents know how grateful we were to share this moment with them. The ceremonies also included a tour of city hall, a gift exchange and a dinner of traditional Japanese food and dances.

Culturally enlightening experiences during the rest of the trip made me realize that even though we come from different parts of the worlds and speak different languages, we are similar in many ways.

The cities and the people have a special bond that I hope never fades. At the end of the trip, the Concord elected officials and Takahashi discussed the possibility of a high school student exchange.

I would like to thank the Concord Ambassadors, especially Pastrick and Mary Rae Lehman, for putting together the trip and for maintaining the sister city relationship. I also extend a heartfelt thank you to the city of Kitakami.

Dominic Aliano is the vice mayor of Concord, representing District 3 on the City Council.

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