Former Mayor of Gonohe
President, Gonohe International Association
What role have you played in the association so far?
I was appointed as the [chairman] president of the Gonohe International Association in June 2020. But, due to the new coronavirus, all of the plans of the association were suspended. So, I hardly did my job as chairman [as of now].
Prior to becoming the chairman, I was involved in the international exchange as the mayor of Gonohe for 20 years. Gonohe has sister city relations with Bayombong in the Philippines and Okcheon County in South Korea. I have visited Bayombong twice and Okcheon three times as Mayor and have hosted delegations from both cities. Additionally, I have had personal exchanges with the families from Misawa US Air Base.
What experiences do you remember the most?
I have many memories of my visits to Bayombong. During my first visit, while travelling by car from Manila, a police car came in from the roadside as soon as we entered Bayombong. It was sounding a siren and guiding us. I was also surprised to see welcome banners and sign boards all over the town; I remember being impressed by the hospitality of the townspeople of Bayombong to us.
On the second visit, there was an unveiling ceremony of a memorial in the centre of the town and I remembered well that there was a grand event attended by many people. What I felt most during my second visit was how the [Filipinos] could be so generous [welcoming] towards the Japanese despite the very unfortunate times of the Pacific War [World War II].
What is your message to the younger members of the Gonohe community?
When I was Mayor [of Gonohe], I used to say to junior high school students about a Japanese saying: “To see is to believe”. These days, one can get so much information as one can about a foreign country through the television or the internet. But, in many cases you will not know until you actually visit the country. If you do not meet people, you will not be able to understand the customs and the ways of thinking of foreigners. If possible I would like the youth of Gonohe to acquire a certain level of language skills and have conversations. And with that, I would like the youth to visit foreign countries if they have the opportunity.
What is your hope for the association's future?
Now, as the President of the [Gonohe] International Association, I have changed my opinion. From now on, we [the association leadership] must carefully listen to the opinions of the members and work in collaboration of the town. As I have mentioned above, I believe that international exchange means to actually interact with foreigners and to understand each other. When the coronavirus pandemic subsides, we would like to resume our exchange activities.
Translation provided by Ms. Moribe Shio and correspondence by Mrs. Sakurada Kazumi