By GWEN MURANAKA, Rafu Senior Editor
Gardena welcomed a delegation from its Japanese sister city, Ichikawa, last week as the two cities celebrated the 60th anniversary of their relationship.
Ichikawa is located in Chiba Prefecture, near Tokyo.
Mayor Tasha Cerda, other city officials and local kids greeted the group on July 3 at City Hall. Ichikawa Mayor Koh Tanaka led the group of seven city officials and 11 citizens. The 60th anniversary was last year but the celebration was delayed due to the pandemic.
Tanaka expressed gratitude to Cerda and the city for their “heart-warming” hospitality.
“This is my first overseas trip as mayor since I was sworn in last year,” said Tanaka. “In commemoration of the 60th anniversary of the sister-city relationship, I am visiting your beautiful city together with 11 citizens. I am very happy for this opportunity.”
He said his parents were part of delegation that visited the city in 1977 with then Mayor Suzuki. He noted that 60 years in Japan is kanreki, a special year symbolizing the start of a new cycle in life.
“We celebrate turning 60 because kanreki marks a turning point in life and the beginning of the second phase of life. Our two cities have also marked the 60th anniversary, a very important turning point. I believe our two cities will continue to enjoy their friendship relations in the years to come.”
Mayor Pro Tem Paulette C. Francis and Councilmembers Mark E. Henderson and Rodney Tanaka presented gifts to the delegation.
At a welcome dinner held at Cherrystones, Tanaka showed the gathering a sister-city key made in 1957. Consul General Kenko Sone and his wife Mami attended the reception and he recognized the continuous goodwill efforts made by the two cities over the past 60 years.
The sister-city program was founded on Sept. 11, 1956 following a proposal by then President Dwight D. Eisenhower to create a national citizen diplomacy initiative. According to the Japan-U.S. Sister City Association, there are more than 450 sister city/town and state/prefectural relationships, representing the world’s largest and oldest such partnerships for both Japan and the U.S.
Cerda presented Mayor Tanaka with a key to the city, which delighted the mayor and the delegation, who took photos of the key.
The Ichikawa group spent six days touring in and around Gardena and enjoying Fourth of July fireworks at Rowley Park and a Dodgers baseball game. They also toured the Gardena Department of Transportation (GTrans) and Gardena Police Department.
Photos by GWEN MURANAKA/Rafu Shimpo