Sidney Sister Cities Association took a recent trip to Niimi, Japan, building relationships and learning more about their sister city.
From Oct. 12 to 19, a group of eight went to the small town up in the mountains, with Mayor Steve Price joining, along with his wife.
“It was a positively wonderful amazing trip,” Price told the PNR. “It’s kind of hard to put it into words, just to be exposed to the culture over there and just the warmth and the friendliness of the people and just how organized they are too …”
Sidney has been a sister city with Niimi since 2008. On July 1, the mayor and councillors from Niimi visited Sidney and they had an official signing of the charter outside of Sidney’s Pier Hotel. Sidney has also had students from there come and visit as well.
The group went on tours in the Niimi area, looking at different sites of interest including the limestone caves and a resort well known in Japan.
They also attended what the community called a Samurai Parade, which is celebrated like a public holiday.
“It’s an interesting parade because (during) the first half of the parade you have all the samurai warriors coming through in their formal dress, formal parade dress, and everybody watching has to sit down on the ground and you’re not allowed to talk. You’re in absolute silence until the samurai section of the parade goes through,” said Bob McLure, past-president of the Association and chair of the organization’s annual calendar project.
The latter half of the parade sees everybody celebrating and they have dragons come through, with it being good luck if one of the pseudo dragons taps a baby on the head, which is one of the big highlights.
The group was invited as the official guests and they had cushions to sit on when watching the parade.
“You’re not supposed to be higher than the shrines,” said current President of Sidney Sister Cities Association, Lesley Nicholls.
“Having Mayor Price there made a big difference. We had front row seats and a specially assigned area to sit … because the Japanese are still very hierarchical in their authority line,” added McLure.
Price said a neat part of the trip was that the group from Sidney appeared on the local Japanese television every night, with programming based around their visit.
“What was really interesting is they had a television camera crew follow us around for the full five days and then they interviewed us at all the various events that we went to,” he said.
He added they would walk around to different events and people would recognize them as the people from Sidney, Canada.
One of the things the group in Sidney asked to see when visiting Niimi was their sewage treatment facility, which Nicholls says is just amazing.
“It’s totally underground and state of the art,” she said.
“The whole thing is computer driven so it’s all programmed and as Lesley says its all underground so it’s not a blot on the horizon,” added McLure.