City officials celebrate friendship, new trade possibilities, with Asian sister cities

During their recent trip to Shimada, Japan, Richmond officials learned to paint Japanese characters, creating calendars for the new year. Left to right: Councilmember Nat Bates, councilmember Corky Booze, City Manager Bill Linsday, Port of Richmond Executive Director Jim Matzorkis and Port of Richmond business consultant/interpreter Lucy Shen. (photo credit: City of Richmond/Corky Booze)

During their recent trip to Shimada, Japan, Richmond officials learned to paint Japanese characters, creating calendars for the new year. Left to right: Councilmember Nat Bates, councilmember Corky Booze, City Manager Bill Linsday, Port of Richmond Executive Director Jim Matzorkis and Port of Richmond business consultant/interpreter Lucy Shen. (photo credit: City of Richmond/Corky Booze)

City officials ground green tea and talked trade with Richmond’s sister cities of Shimada, Japan, and Zhoushan, China, during a December trip to celebrate a history of friendship and new trade opportunities.

Port of Richmond executive director James Matzorkis led the business-related trip to Zhoushan, a city in the northeastern Zhejiang province of Eastern China; the two ports are planning out the future trade of automobiles, as well as dry and liquid bulk products. Accompanying Matzorkis were City Manager Bill Lindsay and city council members Nat Bates and Corky Boozé.

“There’s no secret that I’ve traveled several times to China in the last year and a half to look for short and long term business opportunities for our port,” Matzorkis said. “It’s very exciting.”

Councilman Corky Booze learns how to paint Japanese characters during his recent trip to Shimada, Japan. (photo credit: City of Richmond/Corky Booze)

Zhoushan was recently designated as a development area in China, meaning it will benefit from greater government investment—hundreds of billions of dollars worth, says Matzorkis—in its infrastructure and economic development.

“It’s very eye-opening to see how much economic development is taking place over in China,” Matzorkis said. “[In Zhoushan], you’re in a city where there’s high-rise development everywhere you look as far as the eye can see.”

Matzorkis and Lindsay predict that future trade with Zhoushan, which could begin anytime in the next five years, would benefit Richmond in terms of jobs and revenue. “It would be another step in the continuing expansion in the Port of Richmond that would potentially generate millions of dollars annually into the port and the city,” said Matzorkis, who in November welcomed the first of 40,000 Subarus through the Port of Richmond, a five-year deal that will bring in $6 million per year in revenue for the city and about 35 new jobs.

“It will continue to bring in new business opportunities, revenue and more jobs for local residents,” Matzorkis said of future trade with the port of Zhoushan.

The Port of Richmond currently plays host to seven tenants, including Auto Warehousing Company — the company contracted by Subaru to run their operations at the port — California Oils and National Park Services. In addition, 11 companies have private terminals at the port, including Chevron.

During their stay in Shimada, Japan, councilmembers Bates and Boozé led the delegation to celebrate Richmond’s 50-year sister city relationship, begun in 1961 by Shimada’s then-Mayor Masaya Mori and the late Richmond Mayor “Hap” Bradley.

The concept of sister cities was proposed after World War II by President Dwight D. Eisenhower, creating affiliations between cities of different countries with the goal of promoting peace through mutual respect, understanding and cooperation. In March, Richmond hosted six students from Shimada for nine days, during which they toured the city, stayed with local host families and gave presentations at the city council meeting.

Mori, who is now 101 years old, prepared a speech for the anniversary commemoration ceremony, attended by local dignitaries and elected officials. In the speech, read by Mori’s grandson, Yoshinori Mori, he wrote about the importance of the friendship of the sister city program.

“I take a great pride to have served this wonderful sister city relationship with deep appreciation of the activities and support from the members of the Friendship Association,” Mori wrote.

In their three days spent in Shimada, the Japanese hosts taught the Richmond crew how to grind and serve green tea, make rose floral arrangements and do Japanese writing. “Each one of us actually hand-painted those Japanese calendars. It was very fun,” Boozé said.

Councilmembers Nat Bates (left) and Corky Booze learn how to grind and serve green tea in Shimada, Japan, during a celebration to commemorate the city's "sister city" affiliation with Richmond. (photo credit: City of Richmond/Corky Booze)

Boozé stressed how impressed he was by “the culture of the courtesy to one another.”

While “the traffic is crazy,” he said, “nobody gives negative signs to anybody or gets in confrontations.” And Shimada’s hospitality, he said, is bar none.

Boozé was particularly impressed by a brand-new recreation center, where locals have free access to a full-length basketball court, Olympic-sized swimming pool, archery center and senior exercise room. He hopes that some of the “culture of courtesy” the delegation experienced in both China and Japan can be further developed in the Richmond community.

Bates spoke proudly of the sister city friendship. “When we can reach our hands across the vast space of the Pacific Ocean and, with profound friendship, shake the hands of our colleagues here in Shimada,” he said in a speech written for the commemoration ceremony, “it is clear to me that the world is a very small and wonderful place.”

Today, the Richmond-Shimada Friendship Commission continues to foster the friendship between the two cities, which will co-sponsor the Richmond-Shimada Golden Rose Festival on April 28, 2012 at the Richmond Memorial Convention Center, in honor of 50 years of friendship.

The Richmond-Shimada Friendship Commission meets every first Wednesday of the month in the Shimada Room of City Hall.

The Richmond Zhoushan Commission generally meets on the third Wednesday of the month at 2 p.m. in the Shimada Room of City Hall.

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