Friday, October 25, 2013

Delegation from sister city Saitama to visit Pittsburgh, October 28 - November 1

From the 28th through a delegation from Saitama, Japan, will be in Pittsburgh touring their sister city. The itinerary includes a meeting with City Council and Bill Peduto, a visit to the University of Pittsburgh and its Japanese Nationality Room, a tour of Pittsburgh attractions like Phipps Conservatory and the Heinz History Center, a stop at the Akiko Kotani exhibition at the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts, and a cherry tree planting with the Pittsburgh Sakura Project at North Park.

Part of a mural saying "Hello, Japan" to visiting students in 1990.

The roots of the relationship were education and economics. Flipping through old papers from the 1980s and 1990s shows examples of cultural exchanges between the two cities before sister city status was cemented on May 5, 1998. A couple from 1990 worth reading on the background of Omiya's (later called Saitama) interest in Pennsylvania and on specific exchange programs are "Keystone Oaks Embraces Japan's Culture" and "Visit Helps Relax 'Stiff' Japanese Stance Toward West". Additionally, the man who would become superintendent of the Mt. Lebanon School District wrote in the Reading Eagle that spring on what Japanese schools do well, raising points that are still found in casual analyses of Asian education systems today. Several items from Omiya were donated to the University of Pittsburgh, along with over $20,000 from various Omiya organizations and individuals, to decorate and develop the Japanese Nationality Room. A 1997 Pittsburgh Post-Gazette article counted 16 visits from Omiya delegations to that point; the last visit here was in 2007. Unfortunately it's not much more than a nominal relationship these days, since Pittsburgh's economy rebounded and the need for humility diminished.

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