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Tree planting commemorates 40 years of Richmond and Wakayama bond

Members of Wakayama, Japan’s city council are in town to celebrate the upcoming 40th anniversary of the sister-city relationship with Richmond. A special tree planting ceremony was held at Steveston Community Centre Tuesday morning to mark the occasion.  - Martin van den Hemel photo
Members of Wakayama, Japan’s city council are in town to celebrate the upcoming 40th anniversary of the sister-city relationship with Richmond. A special tree planting ceremony was held at Steveston Community Centre Tuesday morning to mark the occasion.
— image credit: Martin van den Hemel photo

A relationship that has blossomed for nearly 40 years, now figures to be cherished forever, with Tuesday’s symbolic planting of a maple tree outside Steveston Community Centre.

A delegation from Wakayama, Japan, including Wakayama Mayor Kenichi Ohashi and city council vice chairperson Hiroko Nojima, were acknowledged at a special tree planting ceremony at Steveston Community Centre to commemorate the upcoming 40th anniversary of the the sister city relationship between Wakayama and Richmond.

The Wakayama delegation, which also includes members of council and international affairs representatives, is in town until Thursday.

Richmond and Wakayama signed a sister-city agreement on July 16, 1973, and the relationship has had many highlights:

• the emperor and empress of Japan have visited Richmond

• official delegations have attended the opening of city halls

• Steveston hosting Japan’s speed skating team for the Vancouver Olympic Winter Games in 2010

• numerous student exchanges between the cities

The sister city program has fostered a special relationship between the two cities, according to Sylvia Gwozd, chair of the Richmond sister-city committee.

“The richness of the homestay experience is something that can’t be duplicated in any number of tourist trips,” Gwozd said. Even after just three of four days, students from Richmond and Wakayama find a connection despite the differences in culture and language.

“I think this is something very special that our world needs to experience.”

The official celebration of the 40th anniversary will be held in 2013 in Wakayama, Japan.

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