For Boston, it's the mother of all sister-city relationships. Boston and Kyoto this week are celebrating the 50th anniversary of Boston's first formal partnership with a foreign city.
A week-long flurry of public events included tonight's "Japan Night" at Fenway Park, honoring the four Japanese players now on the Red Sox roster, among them Kyoto native Hideki Okajima. Kyoto Mayor Daisaku Kadokawa threw out the first ball. With him were a dozen boys from the Boston area who have just completed a baseball-focused exchange tour of Japan, a year after 12 young Japanese ballplayers visited Boston in a similar exchange.
But most of the anniversary events are designed to celebrate the rich cultural and academic traditions that distinguish both cities, and the many ties they have established since Kyoto became Boston's first sister city in 1959.
Kadokawa joined Boston officials this evening in a reception at the Children's Museum, to celebrate the establishment there in 1979 of the Kyoto House, a replica of a traditional Japanese dwelling given by the people of Kyoto in 1979 on the 20th anniversary of the sister-city relationship.
Peter Grilli, who is president of the Japan Society of Boston, spoke to me today of how the bond between the cities remains vital and growing, honoring the past but also focused on contemporary concerns, through events such as a symposium today by urban planners on preserving historic sites.
"Boston and Kyoto are both ancient cities with fantastic histories that we cherish. But we’re also not weighted down by history," said Grilli, a specialist on Japanese film and culture. "Boston and Kyoto both look forward, and have significant high-tech sectors. But we're also both involved in preserving their monuments."
Boston's Japan Society is the oldest in the United States, and celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2004.
With its 2,000 Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines, Kyoto is a UNESCO world heritage site. It also is home to 37 universities, rivaling Boston's role as a national center of education excellence for Japan. Kyoto's university association this week signed an agreement with the Fenway-area group of six Boston colleges to increase exchanges between them.
The Museum of Fine Arts also has exhibitions on at the moment to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the sisterhood.
Kadokawa, elected in 2008, was previously the head of the city's education department, and also is president of the League of Historical Cities, a global group that works to build ties among cities with strong historical roots.
The cities formally became sister-cities three years after the Eisenhower Administration created the sister-city program to encourage global partnerships and exchanges between US cities and like-minded cities abroad. Boston now has eight formal sister-city relationships. The others, in the order they were established, are Strasbourg, France; Barcelona, Spain; Hangzhou, China; Padua, Italy; Melbourne, Australia; Taipei, Taiwan; and Sekondi-Takoradi, Ghana. (There are several other substantial but unofficial partnerships with cities including Haifa in Israel).
The sister-city ties are supported primarily by the expatriate communities here, and Boston's substantial Japanese Community is organized through the very active Japan Society, based at the Showa Boston Institute in Jamaica Plain.
Kyoto, a city of about 1.5 million, has been discerning in its choice of sister cities. Its web site lists nine, including Paris, Prague, Florence and Guadalajara.
About this blog
About James F. SmithJim Smith came home to his native Boston in 2002 to become the Boston Globe's foreign editor after spending 22 years abroad. He was previously based in Buenos Aires and Mexico City for the LA Times, and in Johannesburg, Tokyo and The Hague for the AP. In 2007 he became the Globe's national political editor, coordinating presidential campaign coverage. He is a Yale graduate, and has an MBA. He is married to Maxine Hart and has two sons, Matthew and Daniel.
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