Summerland and the Japanese city of Toyokoro officially became Sister Cities in 1996. Eleven years before that, Summerland developed a Sister City relationship with Toyosato. When this community amalgamated, Toyokoro became our Sister City.
Toyokoro is located on Japan's northern island of Hokkaido. It has a population of 3,845. Just 15 kilometers to the south is the city of Ikeda: Penticton's Sister City. This relationship was established in 1976. Penticton Ross Axeworthy has played a central role in our Sister City Agreements for thirty years. Summerland's David Huck also played an important role in the early development of the agreement. Summerland has been extremely fortunate to have Darlene Forsdick and Lorrie Forde continue these efforts in Summerland. Also involved with our Sister City Committee has been Sharon Marchant and Kim Mackereth. Of course a central figure in our community has been Chico Inaba, our translator. It is through the dedication of these people that this program has been such a success.
The Tokachi River divides Toyokoro into two sections of land. The main business side of the river is called Moiwa and the farming side of the river is Toyokoro. This community is most noted for its daikon radish. Other crops include buckwheat, red Adzuki beans, corn, cabbage and potatoes. The community has a cattle industry and a modern dairy facility. Culturally an important tradition of Toyokoro is the Taiko drums. This energized presentation includes massive drums. On one occasion the Taiko drum ensemble visited Summerland to a packed audience at JR Centre Stage Theatre.
Just like Summerland, Toyokoro was founded in the same year 1906. Toyokoro was founded by an individual named Ninomiya from southern Japan. The area of the district consists of 536.52 km2. (Summerland is 72 km2). With the protection of the Hidaka Mountain Range, this section of Hokkaido does not get the extremes of weather like other parts of the island. Winter temperatures can dip to -25 C. Average annual precipitation is 10cm of rain.
Similar to Summerland's Fall Fair, Toyokoro celebrates a Harvest Festival. There is also a Mountain Bike Race in October and a Salmon Marathon in September. At these community celebrations Toyokoro does feature Summerland products such as Summerland wines and a favorite, Summerland Sweets products. In the hills above Moiwa is a Park Golf facility. Summerland's Sister City Ambassador Lorrie Forde has become an expert park golfer.
During our Centennial year and the celebration of our tenth anniversary of our Sister City agreement, both communities exchanged visits. The Japanese delegation arrived in Summerland in time to help celebrate Canada Day. In September a group of approximately 20 Summerlanders visited Toyokoro. This included Mayor Gregory, Councillor Roberge, Director of Finance Ken Ostraat and Summerland Royalty Queen Victoria Derosier and Princesses Tiana Savage and Aly Kennedy. The whole Summerland group received a royal welcome. Toyokoro is noted for their hospitality and the visit was nothing short of spectacular.
Toyokoro is recognized for its Harunire Elm Tree. This tree is actually two trees that have grown together into a perfected symmetrical and balanced form. It was a great honor for the community and the Summerland delegation to plant a graft of the Harunire Elm Tree as a gesture to celebrate our Sister City Agreement.
Over the past ten years there have been frequent visits by citizens of both communities. A primary focus has been on our young people taking a prominent role in these visits. In these past ten years, Toyokoro has sent a delegation to Summerland annually. For the most part, Summerland has sent a delegation every two years. Summerland has also sent Assistant English Teachers to Toyokoro. As of 2007, we have sent four teachers.
As a tradition when the two communities meet, there is an exchange of gifts. There are gifts on behalf of the communities and on behalf of the Sister City societies. Also the Mayors of the two communities exchange personal gifts. In Toyokoro the two mayors, it turns out, exchanged the exact same gift, a photograph of them both on a scooter!
With our Sister City relationship now lasting over ten years, there has been a strong bond between friends and families. These friendships have had a profound impact on many of our lives. As the bond between our two communities grows stronger, the dream of Ross Axeworthy and Darlene Forsdick have become a reality.