The Dalles Sister Cities Association is preparing to send a delegation of students and chaperones to Miyoshi City, Japan, in July. Pictured are, from left, Margaret Brewer, Leah Ferguson, James Pashek (back), Ethan Martin, Caleb Miller, Blake Kienlen, Jordan Dexter, Jose Reyes, Ryan Davis, Shannon Silaphath, Anthony Zapien, Beth Chrisman, Roman Sarabia and Pete Recksiek. Not pictured are Eli Ferguson and Will Evans.
The Dalles Sister Cities Association is preparing to send a new delegation of 12 students and four adult chaperones to The Dalles’ sister city — Miyoshi City, Japan — in early July.
To raise money, the association is hosting a “Jubilee for Japan” at the Sunshine Mill on Saturday, May 19, 5 to 7:30 p.m.
Students, chaperones, and members of the Sister Cities’ board are selling raffle tickets for $10 and entry tickets for $5.
The event will feature food and drink for purchase, a silent auction and raffles for a kimono quilt, a two-night stay at any WorldMark resort, an eighth of grass-fed beef, gift certificates for Wasco County PUD and The Dalles Disposal, and more.
"A cultural immersion trip in Japan is an excellent opportunity for students to experience how others live," said Pete Rechsiek, one of the group’s chaperones. “The best way to understand one's own culture is to look at it from the outside.”
The group will depart July 5 and return July 13. They will spend six nights in Miyoshi City, visiting temples and shrines and touring the area with their host families, then one night in Osaka, Japan before returning home.
"I believe that traveling can lead to experiences that can change your life forever, and I believe that this is one of those experiences,” said Eli Ferguson, a junior at TDHS traveling with the group as a student ambassador in July.
Fellow student ambassador Roman Sarabia said that the trip will be the first step towards his life goal.
“The reason I want to go on this trip is because I want to become an ESL teacher and travel abroad to other countries, learning the language of the country, experiencing their culture and making new connections around the world,” said Sarabia.
The Dalles has sent annual delegations to Miyoshi City, Japan, and hosted visiting delegates, since establishing a relationship with the city nearly 30 years ago.
The original relationship was forged with Ikeda, Japan, which merged with five other surrounding towns and cities to become Miyoshi City.
Miyoshi City, located on the island of Shikoku in southeast Japan, is more like The Dalles than most would expect: Both cities have mild climates but tall mountains that bring wind and a bit of snow in the winter, both are nestled on scenic riverbanks, and both are connected to cherries: The Dalles through the cherry industry, Japanese culture through a high value placed on cherry blossoms.
“Ultimately many of them will have a life-changing experience. Many of the new friends they make will likely travel to The Dalles in the fall and their new friendship will continue across seas for many years,” said Katie Paul, president of the association’s board of directors.
The program is especially impactful to both American and Japanese students, Paul said, as many participants have never been out of their respective countries before.
The idea behind sister cities, also called twin cities, is to forge cultural and business connections between cities of vastly different cultures to promote peace, trade and tourism.
The practice first started when Toledo, Idaho, paired with Toledo, Spain, in 1931. President Eisenhower later established Sister Cities International in 1956, with the goal to repair relationships between the nations after WWII. The program is heavily supported by the Council of Local Authorities for International Relations (CLAIR), a Japanese organization established in 1988 with a similar goal to support international collaboration.
"With all of the turmoil that we see in our world today, I think that travel experiences are truly invaluable,” said chaperone Leah Ferguson. “Traveling to a new place with new people and new traditions causes us to be flexible and more tolerable of what's going on in the world around us.
“This particular experience of visiting our sister city in Japan will be an excellent opportunity to form relationships with those who see the world in a totally different way, creating a sense of global citizenship for all of those involved."
The most recent group from The Dalles to visit was a group of adults who went over when Miyoshi City hosted the World Rafting Championship last October.
That delegation partook in some sightseeing and tourist activities like learning how to make udon noodles, attending a floral arrangement demonstration and viewing traditional Japanese dance; but the primary purpose of the trip was to form connections with host families and learn about Japanese culture, government and politics.
For more information, visit thedallessistercities.org.