Artfully Edmonds: Students from Edmonds’ Japanese Sister City arrive for cultural exchange

Students from Hekinan, Japan, enjoy the Edmonds Summer Market Saturday.

By Ellen Chappelle
A delegation of students from Hekinan, Japan, descended on Edmonds Friday as part of the ongoing relationship between the two cities and met residents during the Edmonds Summer Farmers’ Market Saturday.

During their stay, students are hosted in the homes of Edmonds families and will have an opportunity to meet local students and dignitaries as they learn about American culture.

Edmonds Sister City Commission member Stohn Nishino says that the Commission facilitates two student delegations annually, one with students from Hekinan visiting Edmonds for two weeks and one where Edmonds students visit Hekinan.

These delegations are just a small part of the work of the 12 volunteer members of the Commission as they seek to “raise awareness” of the value of this kind of cultural exchange. They also host other events throughout the year, furthering their mission “to promote international communication and understanding through exchanges of people, ideas and culture.”

“Citizens in Edmonds wanted to create a cultural dialogue,” becoming Hekinan’s sister city in 1988,  Nishino explains. And the two cities have been exchanging art and trading visits ever since; Edmonds quilters designed and made a special quilt for Hekinan, Hekinan gave Edmonds a hand-carved granite lantern that is displayed in Centennial Plaza; physicians exchange visits between the hospitals of each city, and children from both cities regularly exchange art projects and letters.

If you are an Edmonds resident, you’ve probably walked along the waterfront promenade from Brackett’s Landing to Marina Park. Perhaps you’ve wondered about the totem-pole-like art installation called the Friendship Tree that stands along the beachfront walkway. Turns out, it’s a reminder of the sister-city relationship between Edmonds and Hekinan.

The cedar pole was carved by artist Steve Jensen and installed in 2004, along with a commemorative plaque that states, in part, “The artist worked with students … to create design images that reflect the character of Edmonds and Hekinan, Japan, and their relationship as sister cities. The word “friend” in Japanese and the image of the sea turtle, a symbol of longevity, are combined with other design elements from nature to commemorate the enduring friendship between the two communities. In 2001, Jensen created an aluminum sculpture, “Crane,” symbolizing an everlasting relationship, which is sited in Hekinan.

Hekinan is a seaside city of about 70,000 people, located in Aichi Prefecture about 40 kilometers from Nagoya and was incorporated in 1948 from four individual villages. The city boasts an active harbor and fishing industry, and also specializes in creating high-quality clay for roofing tile and the ceramic arts. The region is known for its abundant carrot and onion crops and the making of miso (soybean paste), a staple food in Japan. Toyota is the largest employer in the region with a local transmission assembly plant.

Hekinan enjoys several civic and cultural assets, including a cultural hall, a large regional hospital, botanical gardens, a performance hall and beautiful parks. The Chubu Centrair International Airport, only 15 minutes away from Hekinan, opened in 2005 to make the city more accessible to visitors.

To learn more about or get involved with the Edmonds Sister City Commission, please visit the website or Facebook page. And say hello to the visiting students if you see them around town!

With a background in theatre and journalism, Ellen Chappelle is perfectly poised to covers the local arts scene for My Edmonds News. She also keeps busy writing and editing for artists and small businesses, publishing an informational site for dog owners and creating handcrafted jewelry. Please keep her posted about all things artistic in Edmonds by emailing her at

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