Edmonds Sister City Dispatches: Official duties — and fun — in Hekinan

Tree planting to recognize 25 years of friendship. (Photo courtesy of Edmonds Sister City Association)
Tree planting to recognize 25 years of friendship. (Photo courtesy of Edmonds Sister City Association)

By Paul Anderson

With all the activities and staying with a host family, finding time to write has become a premium. It has been a busy week, starting with the arrival of the delegation on Tuesday evening. Some of us had arrived early and were greeted by members of the Hekinan Sister City Association and then we were able to greet the Edmonds delegation.

The plane landed a little late and we all waited with anticipation for them to come through the doors. They were led by Mayor Dave Earling, who stopped and applauded all those waiting. Those who had been here before greeted old friends. For those of us who were new, we made new acquaintances before we headed to the bus. We drove from Nagoya to Hekinan in a rainstorm. By the time we arrived at the hotel, the rain had stopped and those of us who were being hosted by families found them and the rest headed to their rooms.

My family, the Yamadas, has five members. Mieko drove me to their house, which was 15 minutes away from the hotel. Her husband, Kunitaka, had just arrived home at 9 p.m. and I met him, Karin and Hidetada. I presented them with gifts and then we talked, even though they spoke little English. I showed them pictures of my family, plus photos from my time in Osaka and from Edmonds. By now it was after 11 p.m. and I was getting tired, as I think everyone else was.

The next step was to figure out the bathroom. Japanese bathrooms, as you may know, are different from those in America —  the toilet is in a separate room, the sink is in with the washing machine and the shower is in the next room with the soaking tub. Mieko showed me how to turn on the hot water for the shower but of course, by morning I had forgotten. Turns out the hot water is turned on by a button above the tub. I shaved with cold water in the sink, then I pushed a button and started to take my shower. OK, wrong button, and I was doing the Polar Bear plunge. Finally got that one figured out and I was a happy camper. Did I say the whole room is the shower? Well, it is. So on to the first full day — and I mean full.

Hekinan day 1 soy sauce
At the soy sauce company’s cooking demonstration. (Pual Anderson photo)

At 9:15 in the morning, we left the Kinuura Grand Hotel for the Hichifuku Brewing Company. No, not beer, but soy sauce. We watched how they make a light-colored soy sauce. It was a very entertaining tour except for when we tasted a dried fish that they give you in the process. Have I mentioned that I always carry chocolate? Thank goodness I did, and I received thanks from several other people. That dried fish wasn’t a good taste, to tell the truth.

The next step made up for it, as they put on a cooking demonstration. The soy sauce made the difference in the egg drop soup and egg roll. And when I say egg roll, that is exactly what it is. Just eggs with soy sauce cooked in a pan and rolled up. The person doing the demonstration would add a little more egg and keep rolling until it was a little over an inch thick. We all bought assorted items and then it was off to the next venue.

At 11 a.m. we went over to city hall to meet Mayor Negita and plant a tree in honor of 25 years of friendship. After introductions and a question-and-answer period, we moved downstairs, where Mayors Earling and Negita did the honors of planting the tree as we watch along with a group from Hekinan. After the tree planting, we went back upstairs for a nice bento lunch.

With lunch done, we received a tour of City Hall and met the head of the education department. From there we went to the Hekinan Seaside Aquarium, where we receive a behind-the-scenes look at the running of the aquarium. We met a very interesting Cat Shark and got to touch it. It felt just like sandpaper. From the aquarium we went to the Kinuura Clean Center, where garbage is incinerated and all their recyclables are taken.  It was a very interesting process. After the garbage is dumped, a crane picks it up and raises it up about 50 feet and drops it until it is mixed well enough to burn. There is little ash in the end, and we didn’t see any smoke coming out of the plant.

Then it was on to the last event of the day, the welcoming party. There were over 100 people present from Hekinan. Mayor Negita spoke and welcomed us to their city along with numerous others from education and the Hekinan Sister City Association. Mayor Earling and Yoshitaka Inuoe spoke to the crowd about our relationship with Hekinan and how happy we were to be there. Mayor Earling informed them that this was the biggest delegation to come to Hekinan.

Mayor Earling accepts a presentation of a painting to the City of Edmonds.
Mayor Earling accepts a presentation of a painting to the City of Edmonds. (Paul Anderson photo)

After the speeches, gifts were exchanged. Edmonds gave Hekinan a painting by Andy Eccleshell and we received a painting in return. Now was time for the dinner. Imagine every kind of Japanese food and most of it was there. After a toast to our friendship, we started eating standing at tables. This gave us a chance to move around and meet people and talk. We had a great time and also had to do the Hekinan dance. I guess you can call it a dance. Let’s just say we had fun going around in a circle. We were entertained with traditional Japanese song and then it was on to introductions pictures and gifts. By then it was 8 p.m. and time to go home. We had an early riser time in the morning because we were heading to Kyoto  on a day trip.

More to come later, as it’s getting late again.

Edmonds Sister City Commissioner Paul Anderson is writing regular reports about the commission’s visit to Japan, part of a 25th anniversary trip honoring Edmonds’ Sister City relationship with Hekinan, Japan.


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