A delegation of 19 locals representing the Wenatchee Valley Misawa Sister City Association recently visited Tokyo, Nikko and Misawa, Japan.
The group was headed by East Wenatchee Mayor Steve Lacy and assisted by Wenatchee Mayor Frank Kuntz. They were joined by the 2013 Apple Blossom Royalty, 10 adults and four students. Mayor Lacy has led local delegations to Japan for around 15 years.
While in Tokyo, they enjoyed sightseeing, a city tour, bonding as a group and acclimating to Japan time, temperatures and humidity. They also visited Nikko National Park, an hour north of Tokyo.
They spent the next five days in Misawa staying with Japanese families and making many new friends of all ages. They attended official functions such as welcome and farewell banquets sponsored by Misawa City and the Misawa Sister City Friendship Association, a barbecue at Mayor Taneichi’s home and tours of Misawa museums and historical sites associated with the flight of the Miss Veedol from Misawa to the Wenatchee Valley in 1931.
As part of the Misawa Festival, they joined in parades and greeted thousands lining the streets of the city.
For many, the highlight of their stay was an uninterrupted day with their Japanese families, to see the countryside and learn more Japanese customs. “Our Misawa friends took such great care of us, and treated all of us like royalty,” Kuntz said. “To see the Wenatchee and Misawa youth singing together at the farewell party was amazing, and made it all worthwhile.”
Merilyn Ulin said she experienced “countless examples of committed trust, graciousness and friendship” during the trip.
Apple Blossom Queen Emily Abbott said her favorite part of the Tokyo stay was Nikko, visiting a hot spring and hiking to see exquisite temples. This was her second visit to Misawa. Her host family treated her “with a level of kindness that can only be fully comprehended if one has experienced it on their own,” she said.
Emily added, “Living with my host family was my favorite part of the trip. It opened my eyes to the true meaning and importance of our sister-city relationship with Misawa, Japan.”
Bob and Dora Heikell found the Japanese “very loving and kind, very intelligent, humble and willing to help and assist in any way they could.” Delegates said they especially enjoyed the breathtaking visit to the Air and Space Museum’s Pangborn display, and Sabashiro Beach, where they could “feel” what happened there 82 years ago.
Strong and lasting friendships have developed over more than 30 years between countless valley delegates and their Japanese host families, and for hundreds of Misawa visitors and their local hosts in the valley, during Apple Blossom and Wings and Wheels visits.
To prepare for their trip, the delegation attended orientation meetings at the Kelts’ home, assisted by Zach Davies. They studied Japanese customs, culture and many basic language phrases. These meetings prepared the delegation to get the most out of their stay in Japan and avoid embarrassing errors. They practiced using chopsticks, learned about Japanese foods, bathing and hot bath customs, gift giving and daily family life.
As with past delegations, they are happily exhausted, and very changed in their outlooks. They have a renewed appreciation for the Pangborn/Herndon flight and the unique and meaningful friendships between Misawa and the Wenatchee Valley.
This once-yearly August trip is open to Wenatchee Valley residents who wish to learn more about our sister city and experience a completely different culture. More information is available at the Wenatchee Valley Misawa Sister City web site, wenatcheevalleymisawa.org, and on Facebook.
David Kelts is president of the Wenatchee Valley Misawa Sister City Association.