Sister City Relationship with Oyama, Japan
October, 1996 marked the beginning of a formal sister city agreement between the District of Mission and the community of Oyama, Japan. The declaration, jointly signed by Mayor Hawes and Mayor Osada, states:
“The citizens of Mission and Oyama hereby pledge that they promote exchanges in educational, cultural, and economic fields in order to deepen mutual understanding and to develop friendships into the future.
We wish the spirit of goodwill that this Declaration generates shall form a foundation for young and coming generations to build upon and thereby contribute to the prosperity of the two countries, and further, to World Peace.”
The friendship began with an invitation received in 1995 from Mr. Atsutaka Kita, representing the Oyama International Friendship Association, to enter into discussions that would explore the potential for a sister city agreement.
From these discussions, it was obvious in a very short time that the two communities have much in common. Both are similar in size, are a mixture of urban and semi-rural neighbourhoods, are close to large cities, have car racing tracks, enjoy a strong natural-resource based economy, are surrounded by great natural beauty, and are located near dormant volcanoes (Mount Baker and Mount Fuji).
After preliminary discussions, both communities agreed that their similar characteristics provided a basis for proceeding with talks. The fist formal visit occurred in 1995, when a delegation of visitors from Oyama visited Mission to assess first hand what our community, and our citizens, are really like. Soon thereafter, a formal offer to enter into an agreement was initiated, and adopted by the Councils of both Mission and Oyama.
The sister city relationship has grown into a true friendship over the first 7 years, and the cities have now agreed to formally visit each other once every two years, on an alternating basis. In 2002, we received a delegation from Oyama, and in 2004 it was Mission’s turn to visit Japan.
Educational exchanges are considered to be the most important aspect of the agreement. Both communities firmly believe that to achieve the important goals of the agreement over the long term, the youth of both Mission and Oyama must learn more about each other’s cultures. Mission’s School District 75 is actively involved and working with Oyama educators to promote educational opportunities.
Commencing in July, 1997 several students will have traveled to Mission from Oyama. They stay free of charge with local families, learning more about our language and our customs. The students are typically selected for achieving high marks in English classes, combined with their citizenship skills. In addition, Oyama students have also attended school in Mission for the entire school year.
In August, 1998 our first visit in the other direction occurred when 2 teachers traveled to Oyama to provide English instruction. July, 1999 also marked the inauguration of Mission students visiting Oyama, with 5 young people traveling to Oyama accompanied by 2 teachers. In 2001, an additional 2 teachers traveled to Oyama for 2 weeks, with all costs being funded by our sister city.
One of the most exciting events to date was the very first “Goodwill Visit”, which occurred in June, 1999. A total of 14 visitors traveled to Mission from our sister city, with the objective of providing the people of Mission with examples of Japanese culture.
The Mission Arts Council, School District 75, the District of Mission, the Mission Chamber of Commerce, and other community groups, were very involved in making the visit a resounding success, from every aspect. Public displays and demonstrations at
the Leisure Centre attracted hundreds of local residents, eager to learn more about Oyama. The demonstrations included floral arrangements, origami, calligraphy, a tea ceremony, and demonstrations of Japanese games. A portion of a letter from Mayor Hawes to Mayor Osada written soon after the visit, helps to express the positive results of the Goodwill Visit.
“The displays and demonstrations which were conducted by the Oyama International Friendship Association were very well attended by the citizens of Mission, and provided valuable knowledge to our community about many of the wonderful customs of Oyama-Cho, and of Japan.
The friendship felt by the visitors from Oyama for the residents of Mission was very evident by the warm way in which they met our citizens, and the many smiles of everyone who attended. Everyone, young and old, enjoyed the event equally. I believe that almost everyone attempted to make origami cranes and balloons, as well as Japanese calligraphy. Our Oyama instructors were very good-natured and helpful with our amateur attempts – much laughter occurred for everyone who tried. The tea ceremony was also enjoyed by everyone, as well as the Japanese games and the beautiful floral displays.
I was proud that many people commented to me how much they enjoyed the demonstrations, and how happy they were to meet so many people from Oyama-Cho. We are very pleased to have a sister city agreement with such wonderful people.”
To reinforce the bonds that had been strengthened by the Goodwill Visit, Mission was very fortunate to have a delegation of 6 local artists and business people travel to Oyama in October, 1999 (all at their own expense), to represent Mission both as part of an art exchange program and to participate in the annual festival in Oyama. The visit was an unqualified success, and has added immeasurably to the genuine “good will” between the communities.
In October, 2000 a delegation of Mission residents – led by Mayor Randy Hawes – paid a “Goodwill Visit” to Oyama, to celebrate the 5th anniversary of our relationship and to participate in the annual October festival. The visit was well received by all of the citizens of Oyama, and accomplished a great deal toward the goals of the sister city agreement.
In October, 2001 Don Hammer, his son Tyler, and friend Aird Flavelle visited Oyama, and were warmly welcomed by the citizens of Oyama.
In June, 2002 a delegation of 32 visitors from Oyama visited Mission, led by Deputy Mayor Takahashi.
In October, 2004 a delegation of 24 residents visited Oyama. This group included representatives from the business community, the arts community, the school board and members of Council. The delegation led by Mayor Abe Neufeld left on October 13 and returned on October 19, 2004. They participated in the Oyama Festival by performing several dance routines with a 50’s theme. As well, the delegates were asked to prepare several Canadian food dishes and share them with our Japanese hosts.
In July of 2013, friendships were renewed between the two cities when 28 Japanese visitors visited Mission for almost a week. The group was led by Oyama’s mayor, Komiyama Masahide, and included some members of staff and business people. The delegation toured the community, participated in Mission’s then Mayor Ted Adlem’s annual golf tournament, took part in Canada Day festivities, toured businesses and industries, visited Mission Raceway Park, Zajac Ranch and planted a tree in the renovated Oyama Friendship Garden outside the Chamber of Commerce on Lougheed Highway. The two groups are scheduled to meet again in the fall of 2016 when a delegation from Mission visits Japan.
The Mission Chamber of Commerce has been an active member of the Oyama Sister City Advisory Committee, since its formation in 1999. Virtually every visit by an Oyama delegation has included visits to local businesses, and many of the delegations from Oyama have included business people. The visitors from Oyama are always curious and interested in local business activity.
That being said, it is also fair to say that the commerce aspect of the sister city agreement is the last to be developed. This is neither unusual nor worrisome, because it is important from a cultural perspective that friendship and trust must develop before a business relationship can be discussed. This is true at a civic level, as well as at a personal level.
Mission believes our foundation has become strong, and that it is now appropriate to begin to investigate the commerce aspects of the sister city relationship. As with the other aspects of our sister city development, we anticipate that this phase will “blossom”, rather than “explode”, and that any success will be based on trust and friendship.
Oyama Sister City Advisory Committee
Just prior to the June, 1999 Goodwill Visit, Council implemented the Oyama Sister City Advisory Committee. The members of the Committee represent the municipality, local businesses, artists, and educators. While their first task was to help organize the 1999 Goodwill Visit, the Committee has continued to meet regularly.
The current goal of the Committee is to establish annual visits of Mission high school students to Oyama. The Committee will continue to work toward developing overall community involvement in this important venture, and to advise Council on ways to achieve the goals of the formal agreement.
If the past is any indicator, there is a substantial commitment in both Mission and Oyama to ensure that the friendship between the 2 communities will continue to grow over the coming years.