Honolulu, Hiroshima mark 50 years of friendship


POSTED: Friday, July 10, 2009

Mayor Mufi Hannemann, who is known for belting out tunes, is singing the praises of a delegation from Hiroshima that was in Honolulu this week to mark the 50th anniversary of a sister-city relationship between the destinations.

And he hopes that they will do the same when Honolulu sends a delegation in November, adding further depth to a harmonious business relationship.

“;This has been a model sister-city relationship,”; Hannemann said. “;It's our oldest sister-city relationship. Every year, we can point to mutual benefits that have occurred as a result of this relationship.”;

Honolulu and Hiroshima have been sister cities since June 15, 1959. The relationship grew from the “;People to People Program”; established by President Dwight Eisenhower in the 1950s to promote peace and mutual understanding. In more modern times it has built reciprocal tourism and economic opportunities, said Wayne Miyao, president of Honolulu Hiroshima Kenjin Kai and chairman of Hiroshima Hawaii Sister State Committee.

“;World War II started in the Pacific in Hawaii with Pearl Harbor and ended in Hiroshima tragically. We are forever linked in war; so we should be linked in peace and in business and culture,”; said Miyao, who grew up on the Big Island but traces his ancestral roots to Okinawa.

During the most recent three-day visit ended yesterday by Hiroshima's 40-plus member delegation, Honolulu City Hall hosted a signing ceremony renewing the sister-city relationship. Speaking events were held at the East-West Center and the Waialae Country Club, and Hiroshima's tourism division exhibited at Windward Mall and entertained at Ala Moana Center.

This highly publicized visit by Hiroshima Mayor Tadatoshi Akiba and his delegation, soon to be followed by a stopover next week from the Japanese emperor himself, should help encourage cautious travelers to follow suit, Hannemann said.

“;There's a lot of caution being exercised by Japanese visitors due to the economy and swine flu,”; Hannemann said. “;Having high-ranking Japanese visitors come to our city helps dispel concerns.”;

The city also will have a chance to play up its visitor appeal when Hiroshima celebrates “;Honolulu Day”; in November, Hannemann said.

“;We've been focusing on different cultural, social and sports exchanges and creating more business initiatives,”; said Miyao. “;They want to learn tourism from us, and we want to expand our Japan visitor base.”;

Hiroshima is working to create a winter-wonderland experience for the Hawaii delegation and for others who come during this historic year, said Daisuke Yano, director of Hiroshima's Tourism Division, who was in town this week for the festivities in Honolulu.

“;It is very cold during this time of year, so our theme will be winter wonderland,”; Yano said. “;Since Honolulu does not have the winter season, Hiroshima would like them to visit during the winter to feel the cold and see the snow.”;

Hannemann said he intends to schedule some time for karaoke, too.

“;Both Mayor Akiba and I love to sing,”; he said.

Since there are no direct flights from Honolulu to Hiroshima, Yano recommends that Hawaii visitors planning to come to Hiroshima should also stop in Tokyo and Osaka.

“;Winter is a beautiful time to visit, but any season is great,”; he said. “;Unlike Honolulu, we have four distinct seasons, and all have their color and beauty.”;

Roughly 300,000 visitors come to Hiroshima yesterday; of that, 70,000 are from the United States, Yano said. Next year, he said, he would like to see the number of visitors from the United States rise to 100,000.