I am very much looking forward to this weekend as our city hosts 36 people from Yamagata, Japan. Among them will be Mayor Akio Ichikawa and his wife Noriko.
Also coming will be Ryusei Muramatsu – a student who returns to Swan Hill after being part of last year’s exchange. He and his mother Sachie will stay with his 2014 host family while in Swan Hill.
Part of the local contingent involved in the weekend’s event will be the likes of Yoshiko Stynes and Robyn Fry – who have been part of the relationship since the early days – as well as Paul Martin, who was on the very first student exchange in 1986, a leader on last year’s exchange and will act as an interpreter this weekend.
It is synergies like these that make our 35 year Sister City Relationship with Yamagata so important. The relationship has offered valuable cultural exchange between our two diverse cities, and I hope it continues to do so.
This weekend the Japanese group will visit local farms and the Pioneer Settlement, and will take part in 35th anniversary celebrations tonight and tomorrow night.
Today at 12.30pm, they will join me to unveil the site of a new Japanese garden in Swan Hill, between Riverside Caravan Park and the Settlement. I invite interested community members to come along to this ceremony too.
Also today, fellow Councillors and senior Council staff will meet with Mayor Ichikawa and other Yamagata City officials, to discuss employment and trade opportunities between our two cities.
I want to thank everyone involved in putting together this weekend’s visit, especially members of the Swan Hill Yamagata Club who volunteer their time to make this relationship so strong and vibrant.
Robinvale in the spotlight
While the spotlight will be on Swan Hill this weekend, it will hit Robinvale later this year when a delegation visits from its Sister City, Villers Bretonneux.
We hope that Villers Bretonneux Mayor will join a group of his residents to tour the Robinvale area in October, thanks to the relationship overseen by the Robinvale Villers Bretonneux Association.
The visit will include tours of local attractions, formal meetings and some home stays, and will come as we look at ways to acknowledge the centenary of World War I’s Battle of Villers Bretonneux, and Robinvale’s long lasting connection to the battle and to this region of France.