Community, Council

Japanese friendship milestone marked

Former mayors Gerald Hope, Alistair Sowman and Leo McKendry with Japanese ambassador Hiroyasu Kobayashi and current mayor John Leggett. Photo: Glyn Walters.

The signatures are slightly faded, worn by the passing of decades but the relationship they proclaim is stronger than ever.

This year marks an important milestone as Marlborough celebrates 30 years of sister city relationships between the region and Japan.

And it was all sparked by a shared passion for growing cherries.

It is former Blenheim and Marlborough Mayor Leo McKendry whose signature graces the pages confirming the bond with Tendo, signed in 1989.

For current Marlborough Mayor John Leggett, the anniversary marking the special date is one worth celebrating.

“If the next 30 years give us the opportunity to develop like we have over the last 30 years, it will be a great time,” he says.

John joined guests from across the region for a special afternoon tea with New Zealand’s Japanese Ambassador Hiroyasu Kobayashi last week.

Tendo in Yamagata prefecture in the northern half of the main island of Japan, Honshu is home to around 65,000 people.

It was a bid by Marlborough cherry growers to export to Japan that started the three-decades-long friendship.

As lengthy agricultural clearances and negotiations took place, close friendships were forged.

The agreement has benefited hundreds of exchange students over the years.

Ambassador Kobayashi says Japan and New Zealand have cooperated in a positive manner through close political and economic ties, and in people-to-people exchanges.

“Our two countries’ friendly and cooperative relationship has been established under our shared commitment to fundamental values such as democracy and the rule of law.

“There are 43 sister city relationships between Japan and New Zealand, with strong grassroots exchange between local councils and individuals of our two countries,” he says.

A sister city agreement was signed with a second Japanese town in 1991 when an official friendship was struck between Otari Village in the Nagano Prefecture and Blenheim.

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