In 1999, the City of Longview forged a Sister City relationship with Wako, Japan. As a part of that relationship, a delegation of students visits Longview in the summer, and a group of adults visits in October.
Items received from our Sister City of Wako, Japan are on display for visitors to see up-close and personal. Included in this colorful display are heron statues, Japanese dolls, fans, colorful assorted scarves, artwork and other unique items.
The display is viewable Monday through Thursday from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. in the lobby of City Hall, 1525 Broadway.
If you would like to become actively involved in our Sister City relationship, please Contact Us
History of the Sister City Relationship
In 1984, 22 teachers from Saitama Prefecture (the equivalent of our “state”) visited Longview. Arrangements were made for each of them to stay with a teacher in Longview for a home visit. Saitama had been sending teaching delegations all over the world for a dozen years, but the opportunity to stay in a teacher’s home was a first for the group. Because of the extra efforts made, the tone was set for a long-standing friendship.
In 1985, the Longview School District was awarded a $75,000 grant by the Weyerhaeuser Foundation to start a Far Eastern Studies program. Through this funding, the school district was able to hire Jim Kolberg to begin teaching Japanese at Mark Morris High School.
Grant Hendrickson, Superintendent of Longview Public Schools, visited Saitama in 1985 and met Kunji Suzuki. “Mr. Suzuki has been the real Japanese force behind all that followed,” said Hendrickson. “He visited Longview as our guest in 1987 and saw the program at Mark Morris in action. He suggested that we establish a sister school relationship between Mark Morris and Wako International High School.” Many student exchanges have taken place since that time, promoted by the efforts of Jim Kolberg and Principal Gary Kipp at Mark Morris.
Suzuki and Hendrickson were active in the Rotary programs of each of their communities. With very little prompting, the Longview Rotary Club established a sister club relationship with the Wako City Rotary Club. Hendrickson and his wife, Pat, have twice been their guests in Wako. There have been several return visits by Japanese Rotarians to Longview.
Through Rotary contacts, the mayor of Wako City, Shigeru Tanaka, became interested in a sister city relationship and has continued to encourage the formalizing of that relationship. Each summer Mayor Tanaka sends groups of middle school students to Longview and has personally funded visits of Longview students to Wako City. Adds Hendrickson, “I can't say enough about the generosity and leadership provided by both Mayor Tanaka and Kunji Suzuki.
There have been many other visits back and forth during these years by groups of students and adults.
On Friday, October 1, 1999, the Sister City dream was realized at a formal signing ceremony at City Hall. Wako's 27-member delegation, including Mayor Tanaka, hosted a beautiful reception at City Hall. At 7 p.m., Mayors Tanaka and Leber signed and exchanged proclamations from their respective cities that recognized each entity as a formal Sister City. Many visitors were on hand at the ceremony to express their thanks for making the Sister City opportunity a reality.