Sister City delegation from Hachinohe, Japan, takes speedy tour of Federal Way

Delegates from Hachinohe, Japan, one of Federal Way
Delegates from Hachinohe, Japan, one of Federal Way's two sister cities, visited Nov. 8. The delegates spent one day in Federal Way and were last here in 2008. They are pictured with Sister City Association president Mark Freitas, city manager Brian Wilson, mayor Linda Kochmar and council member Mike Park.
— image credit: Courtesy photo

In a little more than a six-hour blitz, delegates from Hachinohe, Japan, toured Federal Way on Monday.

The eight-person delegation, including mayor Makoto Kobayashi, were here as part of the Sister City program. Federal Way and Hachinohe have been sister cities since February 1993.

"It is our intent that this relationship contribute to promoting better relations between our two countries and consequently to the peace and prosperity of the world," according to cities' Sister City agreement.

Delegates from the cities alternate visitations to each country annually. Hachinohe delegates were last here in 2008. Generally, they stay longer than one day, said Mark Freitas, president of the Sister City Association, which organizes the visits.

In the past, delegates have attended cultural events such as Federal Way's Festival Days. This year is different because of the economy, both locally and in Japan, Freitas said.

"Economic times are tough in Japan," he said. "Economic times are tough all over."

While in town, the delegates made appearances around town. They stopped by Illahee Middle School to meet with the principal and tour the school. There, they learned more about Federal Way's education system, said Edie Jeffers, Federal Way School District spokeswoman. Illahee used to participate in a student exchange program with Hachinohe.

Delegates also visited City Hall and met with city manager Brian Wilson and mayor Linda Kochmar. A brief tour of the city, via a city van, was provided before the delegation was later treated to a meal at Dumas Bay Centre.

The evening wrapped up with a ceremonial toast and gift exchange between the sister city representatives. The exchange is a Japanese tradition, Frietas said. The Sister City Association presented the Japanese delegates with a gift basket including the candy Aplets and Cotlets. The basket was paid for by the Sister City Association, he said.

South Korean sister city

Federal Way has a second sister city: Donghae, South Korea. In March, a four-person delegation comprised of Federal Way city manager Brian Wilson, mayor Linda Kochmar, city councilman Mike Park and economic development director Patrick Doherty traveled to Donghae. The trip cost $6,500 and was paid for by the City of Federal Way.

While in Donghae, public officials celebrated Federal Way's 20-year anniversary as a city and Donghae's 30-year anniversary as a city. They also applauded 10 years as each other's sister city.

The City of Federal Way received some negative public feedback after its visit to South Korea. A handful of residents were upset that, during a time when Federal Way's revenue streams are down and cuts are being made to the budget, the city council had approved spending up to $50,000 to conduct a conference in South Korea to market Federal Way to potential investors. The money was not spent. Instead, the city's delegation spoke as guests at another conference being held in South Korea, Doherty said.

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