By Charlie Bermant
Peninsula Daily News
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“I'm very honored to be part of this long tradition,” Port Townsend Mayor David King said at a reception Wednesday evening at the Cotton Building.
“I look forward to mayors long into the future sharing this exchange, education and culture,” King said.
“It's wonderful that even though we are so far away, we have managed to be so close through this connection.”
The sister-city program began in 2002, and regular exchange programs have taken place over the decade.
This year, the 12-member delegation is composed of adults from Ichikawa, including the town's mayor. In the past, children participated.
The most recent time Port Townsend sent anyone to Ichikawa, a town of about 14,000 in Hyogo prefecture, or state, was in 2009, according to Catherine McNabb, a Port Townsend city employee who hosts the program.
The schools and the YMCA were involved in the exchange program but have been unable to sponsor a trip in recent years.
“Any act of teachable understanding benefits both sides,” McNabb said.
“Some sister-city programs include an economic exchange, but our purpose is to develop culture and friendship.
“It's hard to hate another nation when you are treated with such kindness and hospitality.”
McNabb has visited Ichikawa twice, describing it as having a lot of wide-open spaces and large houses that do not fit with the impression many Americans have of Japan having small living spaces.
About 60 people attended the reception in the Cotton Building, which included a demonstration of how to make soba noodles from scratch, conducted by Yoshinobu Yamashita, who runs a noodle-making school in Ichikawa.
During the demonstration, Benjamin Erickson of the Hyogo Business and Cultural Center in Seattle provided the translation.
The speeches by King and Ichikawa Mayor Shuhei Okamoto were translated for the crowd, often resulting in laughter several minutes after the joke was told.
Many attendees communicated through hand signals, broken English and fractured Japanese, while others took translation into their own hands.
Delegation member Kazyo Yanase brought an iPad with a translation program, with one side of the screen in English and the other in Japanese.
While communicating with Sandra Smith-Poling, Yanase would type a Japanese phrase, and it would show up immediately in English.
The program also had a voice-recognition module that didn't always provide an accurate translation, resulting in the same kind of good-natured laughter when a translated phrase is misinterpreted.
Several small children were present with the intention of teaching them how to say “trick or treat” in Japanese, but only one of those present was old enough to talk.
The delegation leaves Port Townsend today.
Jefferson County Reporter Charlie Bermant can be reached at 360-385-2335 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.