Mayor Bob McDavid’s official welcome reception for delegates from Columbia’s sister city, Hakusan, Japan, went on as planned, minus one detail.
The mayor himself was not in attendance.
Though his apology for not being there echoed through the council chambers, the public was reassured that he had lunch with the visiting delegates.
The Japanese delegates are a part of the Hakusan International Association and arrived to Columbia on Sunday to celebrate their 25th anniversary of friendship. The two cities formed this relationship on May 7, 1988.
McDavid recently signed a proclamation stating Columbia’s recommitment to Haukusan, which was read aloud during the event.
According to the program’s guidelines, a sister city provides a cultural understanding, an atmosphere for economic development and a long lasting friendship.The Hakusan program also hosts student exchanges in which groups of students from Columbia Public Schools have the opportunity to visit Japan. The program has been in place since 1990.
Among attendees at the event were Second Ward Councilman Michael Trapp, former mayor Mary Ann McCollum and City Manager Mike Matthes. Renee Graham, the city’s public communications manager, helped host the event.
Acts of friendship were recounted as delegates spoke about the past, including Cherry Grove’s 2011 rededication to Hakusan’s former mayor, who died unexpectedly in 2010. It was in response to Hakusan Mayor Mato’s 1973 arrangement to have cherry blossom trees, a symbol of enduring friendship, planted at Cosmo Park.
International Association Chairman Hiroshi Hikoda read a speech on behalf of their mayor, who was unable to make the trip due to scheduling conflicts.
“It is my great pleasure to be here today and be with you on this occasion,” Hikoda said. “We appreciate the very warm greeting we received at the Columbia Regional Airport last night.”
This was Hikoda’s third trip to Columbia.
Hikoda thanked the city for a letter it sent to Hakusan following a 2011 earthquake and announced with great enthusiasm that a train would be ready by March 2015 to take passengers from Hakusan to Tokyo.
Following the introduction, there was an exchange of gifts.
A letter from Hakusan’s mayor, addressed to McDavid, was partially read to the audience. It too expressed congratulations. In addition, delegates presented a Gaga lion, which symbolizes a guardian of the city in Japan. Its purpose is to drive evil spirits away.
Among gifts from Columbia to Hakusan was artwork by Columbia artist Rebecca Douglas, a wooden box intended to hold small treasures and hardwood serving boards in the shape of Missouri for each of the delegates.
In addition, ambassadors from Columbia’s Chamber of Commerce held a ribbon cutting ceremony for its new exhibit “Portrait of a Sister.” Featuring photographs and gifts from throughout the years, its primary purpose is to be representative of a sort-of community, one with with love, work, learning and play.