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WA and Japan’s Hyogo Prefecture celebrate 60 years of ‘sister state’ relationship |  Washington


(The Center Square) – An international “sister state” relationship spanning six decades between Washington and Japan’s Hyogo Prefecture was celebrated last week by their respective governors, Jay Inslee and Motohiko Saito.

Speaking at a ceremonial reception Wednesday in the capital, Olympia, Inslee said the two governments have shared mutual interests and ties for “60 wonderful years.”

Describing himself as “the old governor,” Inslee, 72, said he spent time this afternoon getting to know the “young governor” — Saito was elected two years ago at age 43 — of the prefecture. of Hyogo, one of the 47 of these 47 governors. government entities in Japan that are similar to American states.

Hyogo has more than 5.5 million residents in a geographic area of ​​3,200 square miles in southwest Japan. It is a major economic center, tourist destination and transportation hub, as well as one of the most productive regions in the world in terms of gross domestic product.

During their visit, Inslee and Saito discussed common issues, including climate change. Each said they wanted to reduce their region’s carbon footprint and dependence on fossil fuels through alternative energy production. Inslee highlighted Saito’s progressive support for an offshore floating solar farm to generate electricity and the development of a hydrogen hub for transportation.

The Japanese nation initially established a hydrogen strategy six years ago, and officials said Hyogo Prefecture and Washington State are competing to become national hydrogen hubs in their respective countries.

Inslee said he looks forward to the day when ships travel between Japan and the Puget Sound using “clean hydrogen” rather than “dirty fossil fuels.”

Both governors also referenced their respective states’ continued emphasis on protecting and enhancing fisheries.

And Saito talked about efforts — he called it an “arduous task” — that will provide a tuition-free college education starting next year to all undergraduate and graduate students attending the university public of Hyogo Prefecture.

Locally, it has been noted that Washington State offers student assistance programs, and many students who do not qualify for federal aid nevertheless remain eligible for state aid. In 2022, Inslee signed a bill to establish a low interest student loan program to make university more accessible.

Commenting on Saito’s progressive agenda, Inslee – known for his support of liberal policies – joked that he was “very happy that (Saito) didn’t run against me” for re-election in 2020.

With their shared views, Inslee said he believes the relationship between Washington state and Hyogo Prefecture “can help both of our peoples,” adding, “I look forward to the next 60 years.” .

Saito joked that he hoped to still be governor then.

In 2013, Inslee had just been elected to his first term when he hosted the 50th anniversary of the relationship with Hyogo Prefecture. At the time, he and then-Gov. Toshizo Ido planted a flowering dogwood next to the Temple of Justice in Olympia. Inslee then visited Ido in Japan in 2015. The tree, like the relationship, continues to grow, Inslee said.

Several other connections between the two regions were cited: The Hyogo Business & Cultural Center operates in Seattle, connecting people and businesses in Washington state with their contemporaries in Japan. And the Washington State Women’s Commission worked with entrepreneurs in Tamba City, Hyogo Prefecture, to expand their small businesses.

Japan’s representative in Washington State, Consul General Hisao Inagaki, became famous on social media by posting videos of himself creating a origami crane every day since the soft-spoken diplomat arrived in Seattle on Aug. 21, 2020. At Wednesday’s meeting, Inagaki said he has so far made 1,119 paper cranes accompanied by prayers for health and peace for the people of Washington.

Inagaki said it is important to continue building the relationship between Washington state and Hyogo Prefecture, as well as the sisterhood relationships that Olympia, Spokane and other Washington communities enjoy with their Japanese counterparts.

Olympia Mayor Cheryl Selby, who made the presentations, said this citizen diplomacy was initially promoted decades ago by President Dwight D. Eisenhower, fostering “people-to-people connections” as a means of ” heal the wounds” after the Second World War.

Other dignitaries at Wednesday’s ceremony included Lt. Gov. Denny Heck and Washington Secretary of State Steve Hobbs, whose mother is of Japanese descent.

The event can be viewed online at TVW.