Teshio-Homer sister city celebration plans underway

The City of Homer and Alaska Japanese Club in Homer have been planning the 40th anniversary celebration of their relationship with our sister city, Teshio in Hokkaido, Japan, that will take place later in 2024.

Some of you might know that Steve Yoshida and his wife, Noko Yoshida, with their group who established exchange students’ programs in the past years sent many Homer High School students to Teshio and accepted Teshio high school students here in Homer in the past 20 years. Those exchange students, from both cities, had many joyful and amazing experiences with memories to share with their host families and their schoolmates back home.

The first exchange student from Homer to Teshio in 1986 was Julie Jones. She is now a director for Department of the Air Force Inspector General in Washington, D.C., and recently visited Teshio with her twin children, Sophia and Parker, who are in the fifth grade. While visiting, Julie Jones shared her experiences with current Teshio high school students. They also joined the tea ceremony at one of the clubs after school programs, tasting matcha green tea with a Japanese sweet using one toothpick, and learning how to drink the green tea when they were served it by the students, who made fresh the matcha green tea in the Japanese Tatami room.

Her children had a wonderful chance to meet Japanese fifth graders. Together they made some green tea during the lunch break at Teshio elementary school. They used chopsticks to have hot lunch with them. Those Japanese fifth graders have been learning English, so they could greet in English the visitors from the United States.

Another good news is that Charlie Anderson, who is another former exchange student to Teshio, and his friends will visit Teshio this fall. I have been coordinating with Teshio for their trip as well as I had coordinated with Cathy Stingley, her granddaughter and her friend to visit Teshio this spring.

Our Alaska Japanese Club has had great relationships with Teshio through online class sessions, exchange cards and the sister city program. Students in the Alaska Japanese Club made 70 chopstick holders to gift to Teshio Mayor Yoshida, to town council members, to staff from the Town of Teshio and to Teshio junior high school students to show our appreciation of our great relationships with them. We appreciate that Charlie Anderson will mail them to Teshio before he and his group make their own trip to Teshio.

We also appreciate that Cathy Stingley, her granddaughter and her friend made 50 chopstick holders with an instructor from Teshio to use for fundraising for Homer students’ delegation to Teshio next spring during their visits. We are very thankful that Teshio mailed them to Homer for their generosity. We will keep you updated for the details.

One of the events for the 40th anniversary celebration is that Tomodachi Daiko Inc. performed with Alaska Japanese Club in May. Mr. and Mrs. Kono, who are the presidents of Tomodachi Daiko Inc., and Mr. Furuta, who is a master of Japanese Taiko drums from Tokyo, Japan, taught us some Japanese Taiko drumming songs to celebrate the 40th anniversary of relationship. Frank Jeffries, who is a retired UAA professor, and Jacki Holzman, who is a retired FAA supervisor, and members of Tomodachi Daiko Inc. donated materials such as 2-foot sections of PVC pipe, steer hide skins and some other materials for building six Japanese Taiko drums. They both came down to Homer twice in May to have amazing workshops for building the last three Taiko drums. We are grateful that the Kachemak Bay Campus and the Homer United Methodist Church allowed use for our workshops.

Now the Alaska Japanese Club will participate in the 4th of July Parade by drumming to show our appreciation, and for the 40th Anniversary celebration. We have been drumming four days a week at the Homer Harbor Pavilion. You’ll see us at the parade with Charlie Anderson’s tractor pulling our float, which is a 1961 Diesel Fordson Major tractor Elton Anderson purchased new in Palmer. This tractor has been used by the Anderson Family for 63 years on the family homestead on the North Fork. You might have heard of a song called “My Ol’ Tractor” written by Alaska musician, Hobo Jim, released in 2015.

We appreciate Bear Creek Winery, Bubbles Soda Parlor, Captain’s Toy Chest, Finn’s Pizza, Latitude 59, Nomar, Wild Homey Bistro, Pika Pika Bento, the Classic Cook, The Homer Bookstore, the Homer United Methodist Church and the Pho and Tai Restaurant for setting up our donation boxes which Alaska Japanese Club students made for students’ delegations to Teshio next spring. We are thankful that so many of you support us through your presence and continued help during our activities and fundraising. A big thank you to South Peninsula Hospital and our community for your donations.

We also appreciate your generosity and kindness for our students’ delegation to Teshio this coming spring. Please contact me, Megumi Beams, at 907-699-2567 if you have any questions.

Thank you for your support.

Megumi Beams is the Sister City Liaison/Interpreter and Japanese International Exchange Coordinator/Instructor for Homer and Teshio.