By The North American Post Staff
The Seattle-Kobe sister city relationship has built on its grassroots friendship among citizens in Seattle’s effort after the Great Hanshin Awaji Earthquake. The annual Torchlight Parade last Saturday recognized guests from Kobe who shared a warm experience 21 years ago.
Kobe’s sister city group, many of whom joined the Seattle-Kobe Kids Camp with their families, marched in colorful Japanese happi coats and Kobe-Seattle Sister City Association blue T-shirts, carrying flags featuring both City of Seattle and City of Kobe symbols. Kobe Festival Representative Yuuri Kashiwaya rode in a parade car ahead of the marchers.
According to the Seattle-Kobe Sister City Association (SKSCA), over 200 local community residents supported 45 youths from Kobe in Aug. 1995, who struggled with tragedy in the mega earthquake in January 1995.
Community organizations raised over $150,000 to support the weekend-long program.
“Some of these students lost relatives in the earthquake, and some had been staying with relatives at refugee centers,” the SKSCA press release states. “They experienced Seattle hospitality, learned about volunteering and local industry, and returned to Japan with lighter spirits and hope for the future.”
For the past 21 years, the parade marchers from Kobe shared their appreciation for Seattle’s friendship. SKSCA added that the program participants were inspired by their experiences in Seattle, several of them with international and diplomatic careers, and one even helps create accessibility for people with disabilities in Japan after seeing examples in Seattle.
Kobe is the first sister city of Seattle, marking its 60th anniversary of the relationship next year. The exchanges between the two cities are many and varied, ranging from cultural and educational to business and governmental. The official sister port relationship will also mark its 50th anniversary next year.
Seattle Mayor Ed Murray visited Kobe in May.
The local symbolic landmarks of this relationship include a stone lantern and cherry trees at the Kobe Terrace Park in the International District and Kobe Bell in Seattle Center.