San Jose, Okayama celebrate 60 years as sister cities

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San Jose will celebrate the 60th anniversary of its sister-city relationship with Okayama, Japan, with a series of events this weekend.

The festivities will kick off Friday with a 2 p.m. flag-raising ceremony at San Jose City Hall, where a 120-person delegation from the Japanese city, led by Mayor Masao Omori, will be welcomed with a performance by San Jose Taiko and a viewing of recently rediscovered artwork made by Okayama students in the 1960s and ’70s.

Friday evening, the delegation will get a tour of the still-closed Japanese Friendship Garden at Kelley Park, which was heavily damaged in February’s Coyote Creek flood, before dinner at the Leininger Community Center’s Okayama Room. The Friendship Garden was a gift from Okayama, which became San Jose’s first sister city in 1957, and was based on a similar garden in the Japanese city.

On Saturday, actor Shin Koyamada of “The Last Samurai” and his wife, Nia Lyte,will emcee an evening of performances at the Hammer Theatre Center from both Okayama and another San Jose sister city, Pune, India.

The anniversary celebration coincides with the 40th annual Nikkei Matsuri festival in San Jose’s Japantown on Sunday. The traditional cherry blossom festival includes a food court with traditional and non-traditional Japanese food, an outdoor stage near the San Jose Buddhist Temple on Fifth and Jackson streets, and several arts and crafts vendors. The Okayama delegation is bringing some performers, too, including a high school taiko group and another that performs kibigaku, a traditional blend of music and dance.

The delegation’s stay will conclude with a farewell dinner in downtown San Jose on Sunday night, with entertainment provided by classical flute player Ray Furuta. Coincidentally, Furuta was a member of the San Jose Youth Symphony when that group performed with the Okayama Youth Symphony during the 50th anniversary celebrations. He’ll also represent San Jose at the Okayama International Music Festival in October.

SOURCEThe Mercury News
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