Olympia hosting Japanese dignitaries for signing of sister-state agreement

Officials for the Japanese state are coming to Olympia to renew the sister-state friendship

bshannon@theolympian.comAugust 17, 2013 

Washington’s sister-state relationship with Hyogo Prefecture in Japan is hitting its 50-year anniversary. The occasion is bringing an entourage from Japan to Olympia on Sunday and Monday that includes Hyogo Gov. Toshizo Ido.

Gov. Jay Inslee and other Washington officials are welcoming the visitors at the Temple of Justice at 11:30 a.m. Monday and will sign a renewal of the two states’ friendship agreement at 3:30 p.m. in the Senate Chambers. A dinner reception is planned under tents on the south side of the Legislative Building after 5 p.m. that will feature cuisine from the two countries.

Then-Gov. Albert Rosellini signed the original sister-state agreement in 1963, and 12 Washington cities have sister-city agreements with counterparts in Hyogo, according to Inslee’s office.

Sen. Karen Fraser, D-Thurston County, said there are two other South Sound events of interest not on the governor’s general calendar.

One takes place at Swantown Marina along East Bay on Sunday afternoon. The Port of Olympia will sign a sister-marina agreement with a similarly sized port in the Kobe area – the Shin Nishinomiya Yacht Harbor.

Lt. Gov. Brad Owen and Olympia port commissioner Bill McGregor are scheduled to welcome Hyogo’s governor, legislators and the marina president, Toshikazu Hayashi, at 12:30 p.m. Sunday, according to a news release from the Olympia port.

The agreement will become the third between Thurston County and Hyogo — including Olympia’s decades-old sister city relationship with the city of Kato and The Evergreen State College’s sister-college relationship with Hyogo University, Fraser said.

“We have plenty of sister city agreements and sister port agreements, but this sister marina agreement is the first of its kind in Washington state, and perhaps in the nation,” Owen said in a statement. “It is truly an example of how a strong government-to-government relationship such as the one Washington has had with the Hyogo Prefecture for 50 years can yield positive and sometimes unexpected results.”

McGregor said there will be a benefit to the ports, communities and states. “We are agreeing to exchange information on the development of our marina services and operations, and share knowledge and activities on environmental stewardship,” he said in a statement.

Port officials said there will be a gift exchange between the port and Japanese marina, a barbecue, and a boat tour of Budd Inlet.

Before Inslee greets the guests on Monday, Fraser and Nisqually Land Trust executive director Joe Kane also will welcome Gov. Ido and exchange students at the Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge at 9:30 a.m. The visitors will be given time to look around the refuge before heading to the Capitol Campus and the event at the Temple of Justice.

Inslee’s office said about 250 people from the two countries — including business leaders, trade representatives, educators, students and cultural groups — are participating. Many visitors are participating in seminars with local counterparts and touring the Capitol Campus.

Fraser is chairing a large planning committee that put the events together. She said Friday that the exchanges are valuable for many reasons.

“I think friendship agreements in the long run promote peaceful relations between nations, understanding between cultures and greater opportunity for information exchanges of all kinds,” Fraser said. She said they also can promote respect for human rights around the world.

Brad Shannon: 360-753-1688 bshannon@theolympian.com @bradshannon2

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