On August 1, 1986, Salem Mayor Sue Miller and Kawagoe Mayor Kiichi Kawai signed official documents officially creating the Salem and Kawagoe Sister City relationship. In October of that year, Mayor Miller led the first Salem citizen delegation visit to Kawagoe City.
Salem and Kawagoe were not strangers before becoming Sister Cities. Willamette University and Tokyo International University (then the International College of Commerce and Economics) already had twenty years of experience as Sister Universities. They will celebrate 50 years as Sister Universities this year. Thanks to the many students participating in exchanges, the families hosting them and the efforts of sprouting friendship organizations in both cities, a strong base to support the relationship was formed.
From the Willamette University and Tokyo International University relationship, has come a third University, Tokyo International University of America (TIUA). Bringing as many as 150 college students from Japan every year, TIUA has made learning about Japanese culture accessible to the Salem community. The Salem-Kawagoe Sister City organization worked with TIUA to initiate the Tomodachi program which pairs TIUA students with Salem community members enabling both to share insights on the differences and similarities of their respective cultures. Another successful program that was born from this relationship was the Kaneko Day Camp, a Japanese culture camp put on by the university students and for local kids from second grade through eighth grade.
We are proud to say that the relationship is still active and strong. To celebrate the 30th anniversary as Sister Cities, Salem sent a delegation to Kawagoe in the fall of 2015 to begin the anniversary celebration and Kawagoe will reciprocate with a delegation slated to visit Salem in 2016. Generally, the adult delegations exchange visits every four or five years.
In addition, Salem-Kawagoe Sister Cities hosts a 22-member middle school delegation from Kawagoe every three years. One student is selected from each middle school in Kawagoe and they spend five or six days with host families in Salem. During the day, Sister City Committee members introduce the students to Salem and Oregon. The next delegation is scheduled to arrive in August, 2016. By staying with Salem families, they are able to learn about American culture in a “hands-on” situation, rather than through textbooks in classrooms. Many long-term friendships have formed through this valuable experience.
Shortly after the Sister City signing, a Sister High School agreement was signed between North Salem High School and Kawagoe City High School (then Commercial High School). That relationship is still strong, with the two schools exchanging delegations every other year. The North High students hold fund raisers to pay their expenses for the trip. Salem-Kawagoe Sister Cities, Inc. provides grants to help fund their program, as well as grants to other Japanese language and cultural programs in Salem.
Over the years, all kinds of exchanges have been enjoyed by the two cities, ranging from soccer teams, musicians, to art and artists. For our 25th Anniversary, Boys and Girls Club members created artwork to send to Kawagoe for our celebration there. In 2013, the World Beat Festival’s theme was Japan. Kawagoe City sent Chosho Yabe, a calligraphy performance artist, who opened the event by creating a huge stage backdrop featuring the Bell Tower in Kawagoe City.
Thanks to contributions from individuals, businesses and organizations in the community, from our membership dues and from our long-standing bottled water sales booth at the Oregon State Fair, we have been able to fund activities to benefit Salem and Kawagoe City.
Salem-Kawagoe Sister Cities, Inc. is a 501.c3 non-profit organization dedicated to maintaining and sustaining our Sister City relationship with Kawagoe City.