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Newcastle’s Japanese Sister City agreement continues to bloom

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It’s been a few years in the making… but City of Newcastle (CN) finally celebrated its four-decade anniversary with its Sister City in Japan this week.

The COVID-19 pandemic prevented council from marking the milestone on home soil in 2020.

However, a visiting delegation from Ube City, Yamaguchi Prefecture, allowed CN to commemorate their special relationship in person at Blackbutt Reserve.

Lord Mayor Nuatali Nelmes, and colleagues Elizabeth Adamczyk, Margaret Wood and Katrina Wark greeted her counterpart Keiji Shinozaki, his fellow councillors and members of the Ube-Newcastle Sister City Friendship Society.

The group then planted a tree to honour the 40th anniversary of their “partnership”.

In 1980, Newcastle’s first female Lord Mayor, the late Joy Cummings, joined the Ube mayor to sign the agreement.

A symbolic exchange of gifts took place with council presenting Ube officials with an inscribed plaque bearing the city’s coat of arms, while Ube provided Newcastle with a Kabuto (Samurai Helmet).

Cr Nelmes said the alliance between the two cities has delivered countless benefits over a long time.

“Despite being 7,700 kilometres apart, Newcastle and Ube have developed strong connections in education, youth exchange, economics, sport and art, with Newcastle Art Gallery staging one of the largest collections of Sodeisha ceramics outside Japan,” she explained.

Local high schools such as Newcastle, Merewether, Kotara and Wallsend have participated in annual student exchanges with Ube, which provide an immersive cultural experience, while the University of Newcastle’s Language Centre embraces Japanese language, art and culture.

“There’s an event called the Newcastle Fair in Ube, where visitors can experience many aspects of Newcastle,” Cr Nelmes said.

“In 2019, Ube City gifted the winners of the Japanese Speech Contest, hosted in Newcastle, a trip to attend this fair.

“I’m proud to represent CN and continue the legacy of Joy Cummings, who was instrumental in the establishment of the Sister City link.

“She believed the port harbour cities with similar populations and industrial backgrounds in coal exports and steel manufacturing had much in common.”

Mayor Shinozaki and the Japanese delegation attended a welcome reception and dinner on Monday at City Hall, where more gifts were exchanged and a treaty was signed to recommit the Sister City relationship.

The Ube City officials also toured the CSIRO Energy Centre at Mayfield West, the Port of Newcastle, Nihon University’s Newcastle Campus and the Anzac Memorial Walk.

CN currently boasts three other adopted Sister City relationships including the Californian city of Arcadia, the English city of Newcastle upon Tyne, and the central western NSW town of Dubbo.

They are designed to promote and encourage friendship and cooperation between local governments, business leaders and the wider community, in addition to facilitating cultural exchange programs and economic development.

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