By MIKEY HIRANO CULROSS
Rafu Sports Editor
ALHAMBRA — Amid the celebration of the day, Gary Yamauchi had one humble admission to make, lamenting the fact that he hadn’t spent more time learning from his parents and grandparents.
“I’m ashamed I didn’t ask more about their lives, because they had so much to offer,” said the Alhambra city councilmember as he spoke at the Sept. 22 dedication of three cherry blossom trees in front of City Hall.
Yamauchi has more than compensated for any lack of family knowledge, as during his three terms in city government, he has been instrumental in fostering cross-Pacific relations with Japan. The former Alhambra mayor is credited with establishing the city’s informal sister-city relationship with Kirishima, Kagoshima Prefecture, on his ancestral home island of Kyushu.
“These trees will be a reminder of all the work we’ve done, will help remind us of all the people and goodwill involved with this partnership,” Yamauchi said.
The dedication coincided with some pressing municipal business in Kirishima, preventing the attendance of that city’s mayor, but Parliamentary Vice Minister for Foreign Affairs Shunsuke Takei made the trip to Alhambra for the occasion.
“The three sakura trees here are more than just trees, they symbolize the friendship and spirit of the people of Japan,” Takei said, adding that upon his return to Japan, he would report the details of the day to Shuji Maeda, the mayor of Kirishima.
Akira Chiba, the recently arrived consul general of Japan in Los Angeles, was also on hand for the event.
Takei also touched upon the importance of President Barack Obama’s trip to Hiroshima on Aug. 6, the only visit by a sitting U.S. president to the city that was devastated by the world’s first use of an atomic bomb.
“Mr. Obama’s visit and meaningful words in Hiroshima symbolize the strong relationship our nations have cultivated over the last 71 years,” Takei said. “His presence was a symbol for our friendship and the hope to live in a world without atomic weapons.”
Alhambra City Manager Mark Yokoyama added that despite sister-city relationships being sometime difficult to define, the informal nature of the city’s partnership with Kirishima has been a special one that has seen benefits for both communities.
“We’re tied together with a handshake and respect, and that’s just the way we like,” Yokoyama said.