A rich quarter-century of sisterhood
by Sam Matthews
Mar 14, 2014 | 1551 views | 0 0 comments | 71 71 recommendations | email to a friend | print
A program that has enriched our town for a quarter century was given special recognition last Saturday evening, and I was more than happy to be part of the celebration.

I’m talking about Tracy’s ties, through the Sister City Association, with Memuro, Japan. Relations between the two towns have been ongoing since 1989, and while the annual exchanges of middle-school students are a major part of the total program, we adults have been able to take part, too.

A case in point: At Saturday night’s anniversary dinner in Tracy Community Center, a delegation of several dozen people from Memuro — city officials and spouses — were there.

Among the visitors was Takanori Takeda, who is superintendent of the Memuro Board of Education. In Memuro, the city government operates the elementary schools, and secondary schools are part of a countywide system.

Anyway, Tak is an old friend. Back in 2002, he was an assistant administrator in city government and one of the chaperones for Memuro middle school students visiting Tracy.

Tak, as he asked to be called, stayed with our family for a week, and we shared meals with him — “American food,” such as spaghetti and pizza was popular — and we went together on field trips throughout Northern California.

Among Tak’s official duties was taking the students to Tracy City Hall to meet Mayor Dan Bilbrey and to visit schools and businesses in the Tracy area.

A year later, we went on a vacation trip to Japan at the same time 10 middle school students from Tracy were visiting Memuro. They invited us to join them for three days while the students were in the farming community on Japan’s northern island of Hokkaido.

While staying at the city-owned ski resort south of town (it was May, so no snow), we went with the students to a middle school, city hall, an artistic glass studio, the town library and a farm. Josh Ullery, a Tracy High graduate who was one of a series of young people from Tracy teaching English in Memuro, was one of our guides.

One evening, Memuro Mayor Tokayama treated the Tracy group to a sushi dinner at a local restaurant. I’m not a big sushi fan, but I gave it my best effort, and I turned out liking the offerings better than I had expected.

A memory of our trip to Memuro was handed to me Saturday night by Cyndi Sandford, one of the Tracy chaperones of our days in Memuro. It was a photo of Joan and me standing with Cyndi and her fellow chaperone Barbara Farley at the middle school.

Accompanying the Memuro delegation to Tracy on Saturday night was Masato Watanabe, the consul general of Japan in San Francisco. He said he had been in San Francisco for only a couple of months, and taking part in the Sister City Anniversary dinner was one of his best experiences so far.

Tracy students who went to Memuro over the years have echoed the same sentiments. I remember one former student telling me that the hospitality of the host families in Memuro “made it so successful.”

After a quarter century, successful is indeed the word for the Sister City program.

• Sam Matthews, Tracy Press publisher emeritus, can be reached at 830-4234 or by email at shm@tracypress.com.

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