50th Anniversary starts in DC with Japan’s Living Treasure!

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Buffalo-Kanazawa Sister Cities is the oldest continuous Sister Cities relationship in the USA. The 50th Anniversary celebration starts in the Nation’s Capital with Japan’s National Living Treasure Toshihiko Yabu who will be accompanied his Noh Mask Theater Company. On April 17th at 7:00 PM Living Treasure, Toshihiko Yabu, 11 members of the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra (BPO) and Shakuhachi, bamboo flute will accompany by the oldest Noh Mask Theater Company in the world at UB Center for the Performing Arts in Buffalo.

In the 1960’s Buffalo’s economy was at its peak, and the notion to engage in cultural exchanges started to take hold in some artistic and academic circles at a time when such exchanges were almost unheard of, and considered by some a risky new idea. Risks aside, a group of citizens moved forward to establish a cultural exchange between the city of Buffalo and Kanazawa, Japan. Now, fifty years later, one of the oldest cultural exchanges in the country, the Buffalo-Kanazawa, Japan Sister Cities Alliance is still thriving!

For the past five decades, hundreds of students and adults have enjoyed authentic cultural and economic exchanges between the two cities, and the alliance continues to contribute to the quest to build greater understanding and deeper appreciation between Japan and the United States thanks to this sister city relationship.

The Buffalo-Kanazawa Sister City Committee was founded in response to the clarion call for world peace and individual diplomacy that could be advanced by average citizens, a call that was issued by President Dwight D. Eisenhower after WWII. Buffalo was chosen to be one of the first cities to help mend the relationship between Japan and the United States only a brief time after America's atomic attack on the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

“The 50-year old sister city relationship between Buffalo and Kanazawa, serves as a symbol of reconciliation and hope,” said Mayor Byron W. Brown. “Since 1962, our two communities have been bound by a deep and abiding friendship that has impacted many people. Over the years, city officials and other residents of each of the cities have visited and learned more about their Sister City. The 50th Anniversary celebrates the strong cultural ties between our cities, a unique bond that we know will last for generations to come.”

There is a long list of accomplishments made possible by the Buffalo-Kanazawa team of professionals who serve as premiere liaisons to Japan from this community. One exceptional example of the committee’s work is the creation of the beautiful Japanese garden that surrounds the grounds of the Buffalo & Erie County Historical Society. Completed in 1974, Buffalo’s Japanese Garden, donated by the people of Kanazawa, Japan has become an integral part of the landscape at the west end of historic Olmsted Delaware Park. The garden is routinely visited by tourists and garden enthusiasts from around the world; as well as newlyweds eager to have the gardens as a pictorial backdrop for their matrimonial memories. This project also included an educational exchange that allowed local gardeners to visit Japan and learn from master gardeners on the proper care of the gardens. This year, Japan is donating twenty Cherry Blossom trees in honor of the 50th Anniversary celebration.

“We have an exciting year of cultural learning experiences in Buffalo, Washington DC and Kanazawa, Japan," Dr. Takako Michii, President of the Buffalo-Kanazawa Sister Cities Committee stated. "Events will include Japanese classical Mask Theater and musical performances, international exchanges, other cultural events, and an official ceremony at Buffalo’s Japanese Garden. We will make every effort to raise funds to benefits Tsunami victims throughout our celebrations.”                

Local exchanges between Buffalo and Kanazawa have included high school students traveling to Japan through area rotary clubs, and visual and performing artists, as well as business, economic, and political leaders, looking for ways to maximize the benefits of our sister city relationship, and learn more about each other through authentic cultural experiences.

The 50th anniversary festivities get underway in Washington D.C. as the Buffalo-Kanazawa exchange starts at the Japan, Bowl at the National Cherry Blossom Festival begins, and our capitol comes alive with the color and fragrance of 3000 cherry blossom trees lining the banks of the Potomac River and the streets of Washington D.C. This year also marks the centennial of this incredible gift of cherry blossom trees from Tokyo, Japan to Washington D.C. in 1912.

On April 12th, In the Nation’s Capital, Buffalo-Kanazawa Sister Cities is the oldest continuous Sister Cities relationship in the USA. The 50th Anniversary celebration starts in the Nation’s Capital with Japan’s National Living Treasure, Toshihiko Yabu who will be accompanied his Noh Mask Theater Company. The performance will be held on April 12th at 5:30 PM during the Japan Bowl at the 4H Center in Chevy Chase as part of the 100th Anniversary of the Cherry Blooms Festival.

In Buffalo, On April 17th at 7:00 PM Living Treasure, Toshihiko Yabu, 11 members of the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra (BPO) and Shakuhachi, bamboo flute will accompany by the oldest Noh Mask Theater Company in the world at UB Center for the Performing Arts in Buffalo. Tickets are $25 or $15 for students at 716-645-ARTS or at ticketmaster.com.

It is the Committee’s hope that it is only the beginning for Buffalo-Kanazawa as well as other international Sister Cities relationships in the quest to further promote camaraderie, appreciation and respect among unique communities. After this first half a century of diplomacy, encouraging peace, education, and economic development; we can only hope that the next half a century will cultivate Sister Cities relationships with such nations as Iran, Afghanistan, Syria and other countries struggling to achieve peace and democracy. Sister Cities have been a powerful instrument with their commitment in understanding, diplomacy, and peace, along with tourism. It is a concept worth the continued efforts and deserves support from all levels of government, corporate America and private citizens.

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Mark Lazzara
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