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Collingwood to say konnichiwa to sister city

About 20 residents, including the mayor, will be visiting Katano, Japan, one of Collingwood’s sister cities
2019-10-28 Katano JO-001
Some of the Collingwood residents going on the delegation to Katano, Japan (Collingwood's sister city), along with Mayor Brian Saunderson, Coun. Mariane McLeod, Coun. Steve Berman and Takako Ito, Consul-General of Japan, met on Monday ahead of the delegation's trip. Jessica Owen/CollingwoodToday

Their bags are packed and they’re ready to go.

A delegation of about 20 Collingwood residents, including Mayor Brian Saunderson, will be visiting Japan for a two-week trip, which departs Nov. 5. The group will be visiting Katano, which is one of Collingwood’s sister cities. On Monday, the visitors met with Takako Ito, Consul-General of Japan in preparation for the trip.

“For me, I feel like having a cultural experience where you’re not just a visitor, but you actually get a sneak peek into the like of people is extremely enriching and creates a cross-cultural understanding you can bring back home with you,” said Terri Keleher, trip organizer. “Our small town of Collingwood isn’t very multicultural. Having these experiences can really open up our minds to different ways to live.”

Keleher has a personal connection to Japan which is what led her to join the Collingwood-Katano Sister City Committee in the first place.

“I lived in Tokyo, Japan for four years, and, directly after, moved to Collingwood,” said Keleher. “When I saw we had a sister city in Japan it made me curious, and I wanted to find out what the sister city relationship was all about,” she said.

“By total chance, my new neighbour that moved in was the president of the Collingwood-Katano Sister City Committee,” she added.

Keleher has been planning the trip for more than a year.

“When we got the invitation from Katano, they said they (could take) up to 25 people from Collingwood,” she said. “Luckily it worked out that the number of people who confirmed interest by the deadline was within the 25.”

The first five days of the trip will be spent in host homes.

“Most of us will be staying with total strangers,” said Keleher, with a laugh. “We did the same for them two years ago when about 25 people came from Katano and stayed with families all over Collingwood.”

Attendees will be meeting local dignitaries in Katano, going on bus tours around the city, as well as trips to Kyoto, local schools, Hiroshima and Mount Fuji. Saunderson will be meeting with chambers of commerce as well as the NSG headquarters in Tokyo to discuss trade. NSG is the owner of Collingwood’s glass plant (Pilkington).

“We’ll be bringing Collingwood whisky and beer, T-shirts and maple syrup,” said Keleher. “I actually asked my host family if there were things they were curious about and they asked for poutine-flavoured chips and ketchup chips.”

Keleher hopes all the attendees will gain not only new experiences, but also new friends.

"The original mission of having the sister city was something to the effect of, international relationships and friendships can be like a path to cultural understanding, and even world peace,” she said. “There’s so much you can get out of having friendships, especially when there’s a language barrier and you can still foster a friendship. It’s a pretty incredible thing.”

Jessica Owen

About the Author: Jessica Owen

Jessica Owen brings 12 years of experience to her role as regional reporter for Village Media, primarily covering County of Simcoe matters, education and features.
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