OAKLAND -- In 1962 the city of Oakland formed a sister city relationship with Fukuoka, Japan. On the heels of World War II, then-President Eisenhower encouraged these connections to foster international understanding and harmony between cities and nations.
This year Oakland joins the ranks of only 45 other U.S. cities to become the 46th to mark 50 years of sister city association. To celebrate this milestone and what it represents, Oakland is pulling out the stops with four days of celebratory events, showing off their city and sharing it with the delegation from Fukuoka. And they're inviting the public to join in the fun.
The sister city association is a regional organization representing the greater East Bay. The 65 to 70 members sponsor yearly events that bring these two cities closer in terms of friendship and understanding. For the youth exchange, high school students spend time with host families while fifth-graders participate in the Asian-Pacific Children's Convention. Adults are encouraged to join in the adult exchange and the Otsukimi moon viewing party, held each October.
For the last four years the self-supporting association has been fundraising for the Aug. 17-through-20 celebration, when it will receive a delegation from Fukuoka that includes Mayor Shochiro Takashima and other Fukuoka officials, business representatives and citizens. It is also coordinating a November trip that will send a delegation from Oakland and Alameda
Becky Taylor and Mark Morodomi are co-chairs of the 50th anniversary planning committee. Taylor joined because of her association with former Mayor Frank Ogawa. "I'm very proud of being able to carry forward Frank Ogawa's legacy," Taylor said.
Morodomi joined for a very personal reason. "I feel like my second home is Fukuoka," he said. "My parents are from Fukuoka."
Together they have planned four days of activities that include a jazz concert, baseball game and farewell dinner geared toward their visitors' tastes and allowing Oakland to shine. "We're very proud of Oakland," Morodomi said.
Three signature events will mark the celebration. The first is a first-ever art exchange between Oakland artist James Gayles and Fukuoka artist Hiroko To. The 38 pieces, first shown in Fukuoka, will be displayed at the Oakland Asian Cultural Center in Oakland's Chinatown. An opening reception will take place the night of Aug. 17.
A second hallmark event will take place Aug. 19 with the dedication of 10 Japanese lanterns at the Torii Gate at Lake Merritt. Copied from a lantern design at Kashii Shrine in Fukuoka, the project is funded by local support.
"This is a very big fundraising event for us," Taylor said. "We are offering people the opportunity to have their names on plaques for each lantern."
Disaster preparedness is a timely topic, both in Oakland and Japan, and the disaster preparedness panel on Monday will team experts from both cities, including Japanese firefighters and a representative from Fukuoka's Disaster Preparedness Museum.
"This will be a great opportunity for us in Oakland and people in Japan to trade ideas and stories," Morodomi said.
For 50 years, Oakland and Fukuoka have been forging connections, as cities and individuals, and Taylor and Morodomi emphasize the value of the friendships they have made.
"The relationships we cherish most are the people we have face-to-face interactions with," Morodomi said. "Where we get to go and spend time in peoples' homes and visit their country. That's really the importance of this organization."
For more information on scheduled events or to make a donation to have your name placed on a lantern plaque go to http://www.oakland-fukuoka.org. Emails can be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org or call 510-638-7276.