Akashi, Japan

In 1968, while on a visit to Japan, Berkeley Mayor Wallace Johnson met Akashi Mayor Masao Yoshikawa who expressed an interest in establishing a sister city relationship with, “a very progressive Bay Area city.”  As Berkeley already had a Japanese sister city, Mayor Johnson wrote Vallejo Mayor Florence Douglas who embraced the idea.  She referred the matter to the City Council and to John Buchanan, Chair of the Sister City Committee.  Negotiations began with Fumio Yoshikawa, the Mayor’s son who was then a student at Oakland Junior College.  After many visits to Vallejo by Fumio and several trans-Pacific telephone conversations between Mayor Yoshikawa and his son, both Mayors recommended the formalization of the sister city affiliation.  By coincidence, both City Councils adopted the recommendation and established the relationship on December 9, 1968.  Two weeks later, Mayor Yoshikawa, his Executive Secretary, Yoshikuni Suzuki, and his son, Fumio made the first formal visit to Vallejo where they were entertained and participated in a meeting of the City Council.

Vists between citizens of each city helped cement the relationship in its infancy.  Between June 17th and the 20th, 1969 Fumio Yoshikawa brought Akashi’s Planning Department Chief, Masukichi Inoue, and Takako Ogino and Akiko Hirose, two young ladies who tied in a Miss Akashi Beauty Contestant Between August 22nd and 26th, Vallejo hosted the first group of students from Akashi Junior High Schools, chaperoned by  Saburo Ikeuchi, a junior high teacher.  Miss Saburo brought eight students, one from each of Akashi’s eight junior high schools, who had been selected as the best all around teenager from their school.  The students were Mayumi Tanaka, Shizuyo Fufiwara, Noriko Sueniro, Hisayo Onishi, Katsuyuki Sawa, Yoshio Iguchi, Hideoto Tabuchi, and Susumu Nobusawa.  This visit helped the establishment of an affiliation of Akashi’s eight junior high schools with Vallejo’s four junior high schools that was formalized later that year.  Solano Junior High School affiliated with Kinjo and Futami Junior High Schools; Springstowne Junior High School affiliated with Okura and Okubo Junior High Schools; Vallejo Junior High School affiliated with Bokai and Uozumi Junior High Schools; Franklin Junior High School affiliated with Fuzoku and Kinugawa Junior High Schools.  Exchanges of school papers, yearbooks, art exhibits, and letters began.

Vallejo’s first official visit to Akashi was led by Dr. and Hilda Buchanan between October 27th and November 3rd of 1969.   They participated in a ceremony to dedicate the 15th Anniversary of the founding of the Akashi City Government in modern form.  Dr. Buchanan, on behalf of the Vallejo Junior Chamber of Commerce, presented the Akashi Junior Chamber a documentary 16mm film about Vallejo with Japanese narration.  The delegation was honored at numerous functions and with an appearance on local TV.

On May 12th and 13th, 1970 Vallejo hosted an official delegation of the Akashi City Assembly: Chair Ryo Ishii, Mashaharu Masumoto, Kenji Tachibana, Dr. Kosaku Misuno, and Chief of Secretariat, Yukio Shiomi.

In August 1970, over the summer school vacation break, we had overlapping exchanges of students.  Two teachers, Shinji Nishizawa and Kazuo Kinugasa, chaperoned twelve students from Akashi for a ten day visit to Vallejo highlighted by a visit to General Vallejo’s home and a picnic at Dan Foley Park.  Meanwhile Gordon Darling chaperoned Vallejo’s first student visit to Akashi that included Ralph Alexander, Victor Chino, Sandra Kae Doig, Linda Doig, David Farone, Michael Lee Gibson, Ronald Hays, Brian Hee, David Lee Levin, Steven Puleo, Constance Rogers, Fern Solomon, and Danny Darling.  The trip was partially financed by the sale of Vallejo-Akashi Friendship Bonds at $5 each.

In October 1970, Akashi sent Yasuko Suzuki, daughter of the Mayor’s Executive Secretary, to take part in the dedication of the John F. Kennedy Library.

On July 20, 1971, Dr. John Buchanan, Chair of the newly established Sister City Commission, led a group of eight on a visit to Akashi. The group included Hilda Buchanan, Virginia Hallin, Mr. and Mrs. Frank Fowler, Mr. and Mrs William Holiday, and Kenny Toch, teenage son of Dr. and Mrs. Paul Toch.  Some of the delegation remained in Akasi as guests of special friends for several weeks.  The Buchanans stayed with Yoshikuni Suzuki.  Kenny Toch stayed with Hideoto Tabuchi.

In August 1971 Takakio Ikeuchi and Hironari Sato, chaperoned the third group of Akashi students for a summer school break visit to Vallejo.  The students were Ichiro Enomoto, Hiroyuki Kobayashi, Sachiko Mitsuda, Yasuro Saito, Kayomi Nishiwaki, Tomiko Tsujii, Naoko Akabori, Juntaro Tsuru, Fujio Yamaoka, Kyoko Onishi, Hajime Fuguju, and Miyuki Furukawa.

On July 25, 1972, Joshua Tamada, Chair of the Akashi Sister City Association, spent six days in Vallejo meeting with members of the Sister City Commission planning future exchanges.  At the invitation and arrangement of Akashi’s Mayor, Mr. Tamada met Mayor Florence Douglas in Honolulu and escorted her to Akashi for an official visit of two weeks between August 22nd and September 5th.

During the 1972 summer school break, Akira Suyama and Tatsuro Taguchi chaperoned a group of 13 on the fourth visit of Akashi students to Vallejo.  Each was housed with a host family and treated to a program of local events and sightseeing arranged by members of the Sister City Association and Sister City Commission.

In 1973, Vallejo sent its second student group to Akashi for a summer visit.  Gordon and Sylvia Darling, along with Florence Richards and Lillian McDonnell, led the group of 8 girls and 5 boys.  On December 8, to mark the 5th anniversary of the relationship between our two cities, Mayors Florence Douglas and Tetsu Kinugasa arranged an amplified telephone conversation from city hall to city hall that allowed conversations between interested citizens.  Paul Toch, Chair of the Commission, Gordon Darling, Association President, and Pat Hollister, Student Representative, participated.

Between July 24th and the 29th, Akashi Mayor Tetsu Kinugasa led an official delegation of 12 on an official visit to Vallejo.  His interpreter, Joshua Tamada, brought his son, Motoi and a friend, Kimio Yonezawa.   Vallejo provided the host families and the entertainment that included a banquet in their honor.  Mayor Kinugasa asked Vallejo to select a teacher willing to come to Akashi on a ten month contract providing housing and a car and a monthly salary of ¥150,000 to help their junior high school students improve their English skills.  Tobey Henrichsen was selected.  He, his wife and daughter moved to Akashi to take up the challenge.

When family matters required the Henrichsens come home before the end of their 1973-74 contract commitment, John Buchanan and his wife flew to Akashi to complete the obligation and earn an invitation to extend the program to the 1974-75 school year that was fulfilled by Anita Liden who, after returning, said, “I feel a deep compassion for the teachers of Akashi.  I consider them overworked, underpaid, and undervalued.”

In 1973, Helen Marchand taught groups of elementary students to make Christmas tree decorations that were exchanged with their Japanese counterparts, a tradition that continue for several years (and later expanded to include students in Trondheim).  Additionally, some of our MGM class students began exchanges of tapes and art work with their Akashi counterparts.  Kindergarten students made Indian headdresses they mailed to Akashi.  In return they received hand painted fans and pictures of the Akashi students wearing the headdresses.

On June 17, 1974, after months of planning and fund raising by a committee headed by Dr. James Hollister, Gordon and Sylvia Darling along with Mayor Douglas and her two daughters, Flo Williams and Dorothy Hamby led Vallejo’s High School 15 member All-Star baseball team, 7 cheerleaders and pompom girls, and 12 adults to Akashi for a series of friendship games.  Over the 17 day visit, there were 5 games, the Vallejo team losing 6-3 to the Akashi All-Star team, beating Akashi Kita 7-4 and Akashi Senior High 3-1, losing to Akashi Minami 7-6, and ending with a 3-3 tie against Akashi Commercial.  Bob Tanner, one of the players, observed: “They probably were better versed in fundamentals than we.  They are super defensive players.  They just didn’t make errors or mental mistakes.”

During the visit Mayor Douglas invited Mayor Kinugasa to send a representative Little League team to Vallejo to challenge Vallejo’s best at that level in 1975.   That invitation was accepted.  On July 25th, 1975 Mayor Kinugasa and Councilman Tamolsa Kashiwagi arrived in Vallejo at the head of a delegation of 46 that included 32 little leaguers.  Over their 7-day visit, the Akashi Little Leaguers played four games against a Vallejo All-Star team comprised 29 of the best players from Vallejo’s five chartered little leagues.  The series was split with Vallejo winning 6-1 in the opener, then losing 16-7, winning 8-4, and ending the series losing 5-1 on August 2 at Candlestick Park as a preliminary to the San Francisco Giants game against the Houston Astros.  The three local games drew about 7,000 fans.  The Sayonara Party for the visitors at Dan Foley Park attracted an audience of over 300.

The exchange of baseball teams earned both Vallejo and Akashi awards as the best single project for sister cities with populations between 50 and 100 thousand from Sister City International and the Readers Digest Foundation.  Commission Chair Gordon Darling accepted the award from the Readers Digest Foundation on behalf of the city at the Award Banquet in Rochester, New York and presented it to Mayor Douglas and the City Council at their meeting on September 2, 1975.  The award from Sister City International was presented to Mayor Douglas and Gordon Darling at their convention in Mobile, Alabama in October of 1976.

In 1976, Akashi sent a delegation 14 to take part in our celebration of the Bi-Centennial 4th of July.  The guests were given a place of honor near the front of the Holiday Parade and the in the reviewing stand.  There were also two unofficial visits, one of five young men and the other of two young men, Katsuyoshi Suzuki and Hideaki Fujii,  in a jeep they called the “Buffalo.” Mayor Douglas treated them to lunch where they presented a plaque of greetings done in paper cutting.  At the invitation of Joshua Tamada, Lee Matthews, her daughter, and Helen Marchand and her grandson, Tom Lewis visited Akashi where they were homestayed.

In 1977, Joshua Tamada organized a 4 day visit of 12 that included his wife and daughter, Sanae, as well as Mayor Tetsu Kinugasa, his wife and two grandchildren.  The visit ended with a banquet honoring our guests as well as their host families.

On August 12, 1978, to mark the 10th Anniversary of our sister city relationship with Akashi, Mayor Florence Douglas led a goodwill delegation of 42 to Akashi.  The group included Judith Eitzen, the Mayor’s granddaughter, Gordon and Sylvia Darling, Association President Florence Bell, James Hollister, Mike Gamba, and Vi Sherry as well as 15 little leaguers coached by Joe Nolin and managed by John Batista who represented Vallejo well in three games with their Japanese counterparts: Matsugaoka Vallejo (named in honor of the sister city relationship), Akashi OB’s, and an All-Star team.  The trip was financed by several local fund raisers including a rummage sale and a chicken dinner at Dan Foley Park featuring a troupe of Japanese dancers led by Michiya Hanayagi.

In 1979, Akashi sent a delegation of 28 youngsters under the leadership of Yoshisuke Yonezawa, Nobuharu Fukuyama, and Masako Kitamura for a Holiday visit over Christmas.  The delegation was greeted at City Hall by Mayor Terry Curtola and his wife, Jolyn and given a reception at the Sister City Room at the JFK Library that had been dedicated in November of the previous year.  Each child brought a handmade Christmas ornament for the tree at City Hall and paintings of several Japanese students.  Helen Marchand had the art displayed at the gallery in Levee’s Department Store and later at the Solano County Fair.

In September 1980, Akashi dedicated a Sister City Room at their City Hall.  At the invitation of Mayor Tetsu Kinugasa of Akashi, Mayor Florence Douglas led a delegation of six that included Association President Florence Bell, Association Secretary Ray Bell, and Association Vice President Vi Sherry accompanied by her husband, Lee Sherry, and their children Kim and Dan Sherry to celebrate the occasion.  We were given a wedding kimono to mark the occasion.  To reciprocate for the hospitality extended during this visit, Mayor Douglas later had Yuko Veno and Chieko Mishima as her guests; and the Bells had Tokiko Yasudo and Etsuko Ohji as their guests in Vallejo.  In December the Association, in conjunction with the Vallejo Artists League, opened an exhibit of children’s’ paintings from Akashi at the art gallery in Levee’s Department Store.

On July 26, 1981, Mayor Takeshi Ogawa, assisted by Seiji Ishikura, led an official visit of 33 young people on a four day visit to Vallejo.  Mayor Terry Curtola presided at the welcoming ceremonies.  The visit was highlighted by the visitors demonstrating flower arranging and kimono dressing at a show at Dan Foley Park.  On August 11, Akashi’s Vice Mayor and his wife were guests of the Commission.

During March and April of 1982, under the direction of Helen Marchand, there was an extensive pen pal exchange between students at Mini Elementary School and their counterparts in Akashi.  On July 11, Mayor Terry Curtola greeted a delegation of 22 from Akashi led by Mayor Tetsu Kinugasa and including Sueo Tsubota, Takashi Mizuta, Nobuharu Fukuyama, Kunihiko Yagi, and a kimono group that staged a demonstration at Dan Foley Park.  The Sayanara Dinner was held at Terry’s Sandra Room on July 14th.

In May of 1983, Mayor Terry Curtola, Vice Mayor Barbara Kondylis, and Assistant City Manager David Lindquest headed a delegation of 28 on a trip to Japan that included a six day stay in Akashi.  They brought a collection of children’s art that had been assembled by Helen Marchand who arranged their display to the children of Akashi.  In December, to mark the 15th anniversary of the relationship, Mayors Terry Curtola and Takeshi Ogawa arranged another amplified telephone exchange that included participation by Vallejo Junior High Principal Wes Mathews and students Cynthia Star, Kelly Williams, Robin Plutchek, and Mara Welsh who spoke with their counterparts in Akashi.

In June of 1984, Florence Bell visited Akashi and was hosted by Mayor Kinugasa in his home.  In August, the Mizuta and Fukuyama families visited Vallejo.

Commissioner Diji Christian spent the 1986 school year in Akashi teaching English.  Four Vallejo High School students, Jennifer Miles, David Morgan, Daniel Meyers, and Khiet Nguyen, toured Japan on a goodwill visit that included a stay in Akashi.  In June, Takashsi Mizuta, President of the Akashi Sister City Association, with the help of Etsuko Takata and Takashi Ohna, led a delegation of 30 on a visit to participate in the inauguration of the Six Flags Discovery Kingdom Theme Park.

To mark the 20th anniversary of the sister city relationship in 1988, Vallejo commissioned George McKeever of Benicia to create a stained glass rendering of a bridge extending into shaped hands as a gift to the citizens of Akashi.  The 300 pound 6’x9’ Glass was unveiled at a ceremony on April 29 and later shipped to Japan where, during a visit between June 27 and July 12, Mayor Tony Intintoli made the formal presentation.  Over 40 local citizens, including the Well Tempered Voices, were with the Mayor to witness the ceremony.  The Well Tempered Voices joined the Akashi Chorus Group in a performance to help celebrate the event.

Akashi reciprocated during a visit between October 6 and 10 when Mayor Takeshi Ogawa dedicated the large sundial that graces our waterfront.

1989 marked the 70th Anniversary of the founding of Akashi as a city.  On October 29, Councilman Jack Higgins and Risk Manager David Lindquest led a delegation of 29 that included Malcolm Tipp, Nancy Davis, Vivian Mohsen, Jack Higgins, Douglas Davis, Midge Lund, and Hal and Gloria Roemmick to Akashi to mark the occasion and to attend a trade show that included 16 local products.  Diji Christian was among the group and had a reunion with her Akashi Adult English Class at the Café Vallejo, a local restaurant opened by Michiyo Ihori, who had visited Vallejo several years before.  Later that year, Diji Christian and Ray and Florence Bell arranged home stays for a delegation from Akashi.

Between March 18 and April 5, 1990 Takashi Mizuta, President of the Akashi Sister City Association brought a delegation that included 15 high school students

In 1991, Councilman Jack Higgins welcomed a delegation of 21 that included Takashi Mizuta, President of the Akashi Sister City Association, and Toshiaka Toda, Principal of Akashi Commercial High School, and 15 students.  The highlight of the visit was a tea ceremony at the Naval and Historical Museum led by Shizuko Ikara that attracted an audience of 200 that included Mayor Tony Intintoli and Police Chief Gerald Galvin.

Between July 28 and August 5, 1992, Takashi Mizuta and Fumio Nagata, Vice Principal of Akashi High School, were in Vallejo with 17 students.

In August of 1993, to mark the 25th Anniversary of the relationship, Mayor Mobuhiro Okada and Tadayoshi Yamasaki, Chair of the City Council, led a delegation of 41 to Vallejo that included the dedication of the solar clock on permanent display on Heritage Plaza between City Hall and the JFK Library.  Perhaps Vallejo’s most ambitious visit to Akashi occurred later that year when, in further celebration of the anniversary, the Vallejo Symphony Orchestra, under the leadership of Maestro David Ramanadanoff, then in his 10th year as conductor, Council members Cris Villanueva and John Higgins, Symphony Association President Kenneth Zadwick, and Executive Director Anne Ligda went to Akashi to perform at a sold-out concert in conjunction with the Akashi Choral Society.  During the visit city officials gave Akashi a painting of the Vallejo waterfront by local artist Daniel Barrett as a gift to mark the anniversary.

In 1995, the city of Akashi suffered major damage from the Kobe earthquake.  The Sister City Association, under the direction of Dolores Zadwick and Helen Lipton, led efforts to raise money to help relief efforts and to repair the damage.  Those efforts included a March 15 concert at the Hogan Auditorium with the Vallejo Symphony and the Well Tempered Voices under the leadership of Helen Intintoli.  In 1996, Akashi sent a delegation to Vallejo in express their appreciation of those efforts that were marked with a reception at the Naval and Historical Museum.

In April of 1997, Vallejo Schools Superintendent Steve Goldstone met with Superintendent of Educational Affairs Hisatoshi Morita and Councilmember Tohru Kinugasa to discuss the common problems they faced in improving the quality of education provided our children.  In July, Akashi Deputy Mayor Matsumura came to meet with Mayor Gloria Exline and plan the celebration of the 30th year of the relationship binding the two cities.  In November, there was a Watanbe Delegation from Akashi.

In May of 1998, Mayor Gloria Exline led a delegation that included Jack Miller, Teena Pelkey, Dr. Charles and Marie Calloway, Kenneth and Dolores Zadwick, Arnold and Mildred Chevalier, David Lindquest, Brenda Brumfield, Harold Gauger, Lynn Teifert, Karen Safer, Anne and Paul Ligda, Brandy Ligda, and the Dan Bauer Band on a five-day official visit to mark the anniversary.  After an official visit to City Hall where the delegation was welcomed by Mayor Okada, there were several tours, a friendship art exhibit, a chance to cross the recently completed Akashi-Kaikyo Bridge, concerts and a sayonara party.  The highlight of the visit was the wedding of J. D. Miller and Teena Pelkey performed in a temple and arranged by their hosts.  On August 15, Akashi Mayor Nobuhiro Okada, Association President Yutaka Tanioni, and Assembly Chair Mikio Akihara, arrived in Vallejo at the head of a large delegation that included the Akashi Chorus.  They were greeted by Mayor Gloria Exline and treated to tours of Stanford University and the State Capitol during their visit.   On August 23, the Chorus performed at the Naval and Historic Museum.

In 2000, Dr. Robert Blum visited Akashi to deliver a plaque marking the millineum.

On August 18, 2001, Yutaka Taniuchi, President of the Akashi Sister City Association, assisted by Aoki Yasuaki brought a delegation of 15 that included Tutsuro Harada, Yukako Sakai, and Fusako Imamotto to Vallejo.  The visit was highlighted by the August 20 dedication of the Japanese Friendship Garden between City Hall and the JFK Library – a project that began with a $5,000 gift to the City of Vallejo from the City of Akashi over ten years earlier and finally bore fruit under the leadership of Kenneth Zadwick.

To mark the 40th Anniversary of the relationship in 2008, Council Member Erin Hannigan and Association President Kenneth Zadwick led a delegation of 35 to Akashi that included a Vallejo High School All-Star Baseball Team coached by Damien Neves to challenge the Akashi All-Star High School team in a friendship game that was the highlight of a six day visit beginning August 5th.    The delegation was greeted by Mayor Hiroto Kitaguchi and Association President Keiko Sakino at a ceremony at City Hall before meeting their host families during the stay that included day trips to Kyoto, a cruise on the bay, and a visit to the Akashi-Awaji Bridge Museum high in a support tower of the longest suspension bridge in the world.  The Friendship Game was exciting.  The Vallejo team tied the score at 3-3 in the top of the 8th inning only to lose it in the bottom half of the inning when our pitcher ran out of gas and couldn’t get the ball over the plate.  After a couple of walks and a base hit broke the tie, Coach Neves had the third baseman and the pitcher change positions (Vallejo had only ten players).  The third baseman got the final outs of the inning, but only after three runs scored and the game was lost 6-3.

From July 29th through August 2nd of 2010, we hosted a Youth Goodwill visit of 19 Akashi students led by two teachers Yumiko Miura and Ozaki Hidetoshi and Kayo Fujimoto from the Akashi City Staff.  Commissioners Dan Buan and Diji Christian met the delegation at San Francisco International Airport.  Thirteen local families provided home stays for all during the visit that would include trips to Sacramento, Jelly Belly, and Solano Community College.  On August 1, Mayor Hiroto Kitaguchi joined the delegation and met with Mayor Osby Davis to discuss, among other things, ways a bankrupt city (Vallejo) could continue to support and strengthen the relationship.  The Sayonara Party was hosted by the Sister City Association at the U.S.A. Classic Events Center where Commission Chair Dinah Villanueva and Association President Paul Ligda expressed thanks for what the visit had done to strengthen ties between the cities.

2018 marked the 50th Anniversary of the sister city bonds between the cities.  On July 11, Councilwoman Rozzana Verder-Aliga led a delegation of 21 that included Association President Elissa Shanks-Stewart and a Girls Basketball team coached by Myisha Wena Albert to Akashi for homestay visits and a friendship game against a local girls’ team.

The delegation was met at the Osaka International Airport and bussed to the Akashi City Hall where, after lunch, they were greeted by Keiko Sakino, Deputy Chair of the Akashi International Association, then welcomed by Mayor Fusaho Izumi and Narihito Akihara, Chair of the City Council before each delegate was matched and met by a member of their hosting family with whom they would spend the next few days of the visit.

The friendship game was played the next day at Akashi Commercial High School where Vallejo’s team proved too physical for their smaller opponents and won going away 82-40.  That evening the delegation attended the 50th Anniversary Party at the Hotel Castle Plaza Nishi-Akashi where they were again welcomed by Mayor Fusaho Izumi and Narihito Akihara, Chair of the City Council.  The event was attended by U. S. Counsul Brooke Spelman who spoke on the history of the relationship and the contribution the bonds formed continue to make to friendly diplomatic ties between the United States and Japan.  Each member of the Girls’ Basketball team wore a kimono to the party.  Entertainment was provided entertained by the Koto Performance Group, the Kobabes Trumpet Quartet, and the Akashi Students Jazz Dance Team.

The Sayonara Party was held at the Greenhill Hotel on the evening of the 16th and attended by all host families as well as a large contingent of city officials.  Members of the delegation parted from their hosts as the evening came to an end.  They spent the night at the hotel so they could leave as a group for Korea early the next morning where they would be joining the Vallejo Taekwondo Youth Diplomacy Delegation for additional celebrations.