For the last decade the Kenai Peninsula has been a Sister City with Akita Japan. Over that time the Sister City relationship has produced greater understandings and exchanges between the great trading partners of Alaska and Japan. This summer two teachers and a city official from Akita Japan visited the Peninsula.
The idea of a sister city began ten years ago as a dream of Yasko Lehtinen to build local interest in the country, language, and culture of Japan. According to Lehtinen over 50% of Alaska's trade is done with Japan. "I wanted to interest young people as well as political leaders in the exchange between our two countries, and I hope to expand the exchanges to include music, sports and other cultural exchanges between the youth of Alaska and the young people of Japan," said Lehtinen. Assisting Lehtinen with her dream of bringing cultures together has been by Diane Taylor, from Kenai Peninsula College, and Dr. Dan Pitts, of Soldotna. Accompanying Lehtinen and Taylor to the Soldotna Chamber of Commerce meeting last week was Yasushi Shinde, head of senior staff planning for the city of Akita, Chihiro Fujii, English teacher in Akita, and Hinako Sagawa, also a teacher of the deaf in Akita.
"We are loving the natural beauty of this place and it's people, and we are looking forward to developing better friendships for the future," said Sagawa. My nickname in Alaska is "Chipy," said Chihiro Fujii, "I'm very happy here and have enjoyed meeting the sweet, warm hearted people of Alaska. I'm very glad you have such nice people here," said Chipy. The delegation will be visiting the Peninsula this week and will attend a reception in their honor hosted by Borough Mayor Dale Bagley at the Kenai Visitors and Cultural Center.
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