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Castlegar celebrates quarter-century anniversary with Japanese sister city

Tayla Scott
By Tayla Scott
June 11th, 2014

Castlegar and Embetsu have the longest unbroken sister city relationship in Canada, reaching the quarter-century mark this year.

“Twenty-five years ago, there was a signing ceremony in Embetsu, to become twin cities,” said Yuri Kutschera, a member of the Castlegar Educational Exchange Committee. “So we are the longest city who is still continuing student exchanges in Canada.

“Both cities have to have a commitment to support this program,” said Kutschera. “I am actually taking the [eight] students to Japan as one of the leaders,” said Kutschera. “We are leaving on July 10 and we will be returning on July 24.”

The student exchange between Castlegar and Embetsu began in 1998. Yuri Kutschera has been a co-ordinator of the program since 1999.

“Every other year we go to Japan and the alternating year we receive the students from Embetsu,” said Kutschera.

This year, the eight Castlegar students will spend the first week in Embetsu with host families. The second week will be spent touring Japan.

“After Embetsu we will fly to Hiroshima. The highlight in Hiroshima is the peace memorial park and museum,” said Kutschera. “After Hiroshima, we will go to Kyoto to see some old parts of Japan and the history and after that we go to Kamakura and Tokyo.

“We take almost every measn of transportation. We will fly within Japan and also take bullet trains; the fastest one can go over 330 kilometres per hour,” said Kutschera.

“One of the reasons we are continuing to do this is because there is a big supporter from Japan who gave a huge amount of funds to subsidize student trips.”

“His name is Mr. Mitsuo Shikano. He put a big chunk of money, originally $200,000 in the fund and then we’ve been using the interest every year to subsidize the students,” said Kutschera.

“He was from Embetsu and he’s already passed away but this is the legacy he left, because of this fund we are able to send the students to Japan and host the students from Japan since 1998.”

Meanwhile, at home in Castlegar, the 25-year anniversary will be celebrated in late July with events including a breakfast and dinner.

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