Showa-Mura, Japan, Eagle Point’s sister city, celebrated its 50th anniversary recently. Eagle Point was represented at the celebration by eight prominent citizens: Eagle Point Mayor Bob Russell and his wife Debbie, Eagle Point City Councilor Bill Fierke and his wife Sandy, Eagle Point City Councilor Kathy Sell, Dennis Quiring, retired EPJHS principal, and John and Ellen Payne. John is a retired EPJHS teacher.
The goal of this trip was to further relations with Showa. Representatives from Showa have come to Eagle Point numerous times over the past five years and over the past 15 years, 156 students have come to visit Eagle Point from Showa along with many adult chaperones. While Eagle Point has in the past sent students to Showa, this is the first time anyone representing the city itself has gone.
The group was treated with great respect and Showa was honored to have us there. The Showa Village representatives were the best hosts you could ever ask for. We toured everything from farms and a dairy to factories and temples. We talked about lifestyles and city management issues. At times talking about anything was a challenge as we had one interpreter and many conversations going on at once. It was a great experience for all involved.
We dined each night with a different group of people and were expected to introduce ourselves with a short speech each night. Most of the group had quite an adjustment period to the food but that was all part of the experience.
The first full day in Showa there was a “festival” to celebrate their 50th anniversary. There was traditional dancing, exhibits and a fair like atmosphere. Members of our group got to help pound rice, and then we all got to participate in a “rice throw”, in which we tossed packets of pounded rice into the crowd. It was much like going to a rock concert, as the whole crowd had their hands up and were yelling. This is quite the deal in Japan. Some 20,000 people showed up for this huge festival, this in a community with a population of approximately 8500. The city owned buses were busy moving people all day long. We were very impressed with how clean everything was and how quickly things got put away when all the festivities were over.
We were treated to a tour of the local Canon factor. This particular factory builds laser printers. Most of the time they do not do tours and no pictures were allowed inside. It was very interesting and when we asked how a village the size of Showa was able to get the factory in there town they simply responded “we asked very nicely.” The factory is a great boon to the village and is quite involved in the community.
We were treated to special tea ceremonies and had the opportunity to visit local wineries and orchards. At the apple orchard we got to pick apples, the largest Fuji apples ever seen! One thing we were impressed with is that no matter what job someone did they were all equal, the farmers, the factory owners and the school teachers.
We did visit the middle school. We dined with the students and then toured the school. We were impressed with how clean it all was, and were quite surprised to learn that the schools are cleaned by the students themselves. Their food is prepared off site and then brought to the schools, where the students serve it and then clean up after themselves. Many of the students spoke very good English so visiting with them was easy. They all participate in many different sorts of clubs and athletics including Kendo fighting and Judo. Soccer and baseball are also very popular. Each student is required to take music as well.
I come back from our visit in Showa with a new awareness of myself and others and how we live, a new attitude towards those who do all the different jobs in our country and other countries and a new appreciation of our friends across the ocean. Better people will not be found!
By Kathy Sell
of the Independent