BY RYAN WELLICOME
A ceremony was held to mark the new addition to the City’s entrance signs in celebration of the 30th anniversary of Lacombe’s twinning with Rikubetsu, Japan.
In addition to the annual student-chaperone delegation, a special delegation from Rikubetsu that included Rikubetsu Mayor Hidetaka Nojiri and a group of the town’s citizens arrived in Lacombe for the festivities.
“I am so glad to see the hospitality of people here. I really appreciate it,” said Nojiri. “Although Lacombe is very far from Rikubetsu, many people in both Lacombe and Rikubetsu have built and fostered a strong friendship.”
The ceremony included speeches from officials and a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the signage addition that reads ‘Proud sister-city of Rikubetsu, Japan since 1986’.
Lacombe Mayor Steve Christie greeted the delegation and he stressed the importance of the two communities’ cultural exchange.
“For us to learn how they do things there and them to learn how we do things here is very very important to not only the chaperones, the adults and the mayors but to the children who will be coming up into our communities,” he said.
Additionally, he expressed its importance on a broader scale.
“We (Canada) are always working out trade agreements with different countries and it is, I think, advantageous to know the culture,” he said.
The delegation was also greeted by provincial and federal dignitaries such as Lacombe-Ponoka MLA Ron Orr, Conservative MP for Red Deer-Lacombe Blaine Calkins and Consul-General of Japan in Calgary Kunihiko Tanabe.
“It is fantastic when we have an opportunity to pause and reflect on the nature of our relationship,” said Calkins.
Born and raised in Lacombe, Calkins remembered when the two communities first signed the twinning agreement.
“It was 30 years ago when I was graduating from high school and some of the people that are in attendance here were my teachers so it is kind of interesting to think about how long that relationship has been around but it is an important one.”
Since the twinning of the two communities in 1986, a delegation of students and chaperones has visited Lacombe every year with the exception of two. The delegation’s yearly five day visit is planned and organized by the Lacombe and District Rikubetsu Friendship Society.
“The Lacombe and District Rikubetsu Friendship Society volunteers have worked tirelessly over the past three decades to strengthen relationships between our two cities and help promote friendship, goodwill and mutual understanding between our two cultures,” said Christie.
A number of communities in Alberta have twinning agreements with communities in Japan. Communities such as Barrhead, Canmore, Jasper, Lethbridge and eight others all have agreements with Japanese communities.
Tanabe said the numerous partnerships of communities in Alberta and areas of Japan helps to strengthen ties between the two countries.
“I strongly believe it is grassroots interaction that truly connects people who belong to different cultures,” said Tanabe. “It is my hope that Lacombe and Rikubetsu will continue to have a healthy and mutually beneficial relationship where people in both cities can learn from and be encouraged by each other.”
Nojiri shared the same sentiment.
“I believe the friendship between Lacombe and Rikubetsu will make a great deal of difference for the relationship between Canada and Japan; I also hope that it will make a good contribution towards world peace,” he said.