Mayor speaks on behalf of sister city

On Wednesday, Bellevue came face to face with its sister. That is to say that Seita Tanaka, Mayor of Yao, Japan, Bellevue’s sister city, visited Bellevue College in order to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the partnership. In honor of the special occasion, Tanaka, along with other Japanese leaders, spoke on the long union between the two cities.

40 years ago, the relationship started as a youth program between students in the towns. As time progressed, both sides became more serious about the bond, and the city governments slowly became involved, until each became official sister cities. This public appearance was scheduled in order to introduce and expose students to dignitaries from other cultures.

“I hope that there will be more communication and relationships between (Yao) and Bellevue College,“ Tanaka said through his interpreter, Sonoko Paulson. “The educational part of the sister city relationship is really important to the city.”

For those unfamiliar with where Yao is, it is situated just east of the major port city of Osaka, similarly to Bellevue’s proximity to Seattle. Osaka can be found on the main island, west of Tokyo. While the Japanese visitors were greeted in Seattle by all-time record heat, the humid air was normal for them.

Yao and Bellevue have had a good working relationship over the last four decades, including foreign exchange students’ crossing over from both sides of the pacific. Yao also has its own Community College.

“Currently they do have exchange students between the two cities, and they learn from it,” Tanaka said.

The meeting started with a presentation on Yao, introducing those in attendance to the cities industries, customs, and festivals. The N building had been outfitted with a number of Japanese touches, including a table with sushi and tea.

Tanaka had flown into Seattle earlier in the day, and made his way to Safeco Field to watch Ichiro, Kenji Johjima, and the Seattle Mariners from team owner Howard Lincoln’s personal suite.

Despite presence of Mr. Tanaka, many of the attendees to the party were there to see “Always: Sunset on Third Street”, a movie about two families as they live in the shadow of the Tokyo Tower during its construction. The movie came out in 2005 and won 12 Japanese academy awards, including best picture, best director, best actor, and best screenplay.

“The movie shows the old Japan,” Tanaka said. “It shows not only the beauty of the people, but the beauty of the scenery.”

The movie screening was held in the N building, and enjoyed a fair-sized crowd. The theater was mostly full, which bodes well for the movie. Plans were being made to give “Always” a wider release based on its reception that night. The sequel, “Always 2”, will be shown at the Aki Matsui festival at Bellevue College in September of this year.

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