By Arwyn Rice
Peninsula Daily News
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“It is a symbol of longevity,” said translator Ryoko Toyama, a Sequim resident, of the wooden mask carved with the wrinkles and lines of an old man, as the gift from Shiso, Japan was given to the council Monday night.
The mask, used in classical Japanese theater called Noh, was carved by noted Japanese artist Kohara Akira.
The delegation was led by Masahiko Kajimoto, principal of Yamasaki Nishi Middle School, with Takahiro Nagao, an English teacher from Haga Middle School, and Haruko Nakatsubo, a member of the Shiso Board of Education.
The group is escorting 14 middle school students on a cultural exchange trip.
They arrived Thursday and are scheduled to leave today.
Kajimoto read a statement from the mayor of Shiso City congratulating Sequim on its upcoming centennial.
The two cities share many characteristics, he said, and have had exchanges in education, the arts and sports.
The exchanges foster understanding between the two cities and their cultures, he said.
Mayor Ken Hays accepted the gift on behalf of the city at an earlier event and Monday presented the delegation with a certificate of recognition and welcomed them to the city.
Shiso City, with a population of 42,362, is located in Hyogo Prefecture on the southwest side of Honshu Island.
The mayor of Shiso City is expected to visit Sequim at some time in the coming year to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the sister-city agreement, signed in June 1993, and to recognize Sequim's centennial celebration, City Manager Steve Burkett said.
The City Council said it would like to find a gift at least equal to the mask and a way for the city to present it to the mayor of Shiso City next year.
But the city's hands are somewhat tied because of state legal limits in what the city can give as gifts, Burkett noted.
City Attorney Craig Ritchie was directed to find out what the city is allowed to do in return.
Councilwoman Laura Dubois noted that Shiso City's City Hall features a large display of items from Sequim and that when Sequim's new City Hall is designed, it should include a similar place of honor for gifts and items from Shiso City.
The planned Sequim Civic Center, to be built beginning next year, is now in the pre-planning stage, Burkett said.
The city is putting together a “request for quote” for a design, a document that informs potential bidders of the city's needs and budget for the project, Burkett said.
Sequim voters approved a city sales tax in July to fund a new police department, one portion of the $12 million center that will include a new City Hall and a dual-use council chambers and emergency communications center.
Reporter Arwyn Rice can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5070, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.