EXPERIENCING TOYOKORO Members of Summerland’s royalty were given a tour in and around Summerland’s sister city of Toyokoro, Japan. The Summerland royalty members are Summerland princess Verity Taylor, second from left, Blossom Queen Sage Beddome and Summerland princess Katrina Kirschmann. (Photo submitted)

COLUMN: Making friends and memories in Toyokoro

Sister City visit in Japan was an incredible opportunity

Taking a trip to Japan was not something I thought would ever happen in my life.

When my husband Chris and I were invited to join Summerland’s Sister City delegation to Toyokoro, we both agreed this was an opportunity that might never come again, so we packed our bags and boarded the plane along with ten others in our group.

We landed in Sapporo, Hokkaido after 19 hours of travel and headed straight for the hotel.

The first place we ventured out to that night was a little restaurant that served marinated pork, rice and gyoza dumplings. “Oishii.”

Walking back to the hotel, I noticed the atmosphere of Sapporo was different than in Canada, and not just because the humidity hovered at 82 per cent.

The sidewalks are dark, there isn’t much illumination from streetlights, yet it felt very safe. Also, bicycles were left unlocked with no fear of theft.

It was a welcome change and left a favourable impression on me.

The next day we met our guide Makato, and went out to tour the city.

Queen Sage and Princesses Verity and Katrina told me they were willing to try any food that was served to them. Challenge accepted!

The group started with a visit to the government buildings, clock tower, outdoor fish market and a Hasso-an (eight window) traditional tea house built in the 17th century.

We were privileged to visit the Hokkaido Jingu Shinto Shrine and walk along the paths lined with cherry trees, although no longer in blossom at that time of year.

A gondola ride up to the Okurayama Olympic ski jump hill was next, with breathtaking views of the city below.

The heat made us thirsty, so Chris bought an iced tea from the vending machine. Except it was barley tea, which is not the same. Only Katrina liked that one!

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It was so much fun taking these three young ladies out on the town for lunch. Butter clams, octopus, crab miso soup and raw tuna sushi.

What better way for young people to discover their adventurous side than by travelling to another country!

Hopefully more students in our community will be given the opportunity to make friends and memories with a trip like this.

When it was time to journey to Toyokoro, we knew that the residents were anticipating our arrival, but I had no idea the extent they would go to welcome us.Their hospitality was amazing.

The delegates met us at City Hall, Mayor Toni Boot gave a speech, and the royalty left with their homestay families.

The impact of this trip to our Sister City will linger. We learned so much about how different their way of living is compared to ours. One thing that was pleasantly similar was their public library.

The librarian, Misumi, told me there are 48,000 books in the collection, with 12,000 checked out yearly. Impressive for a town of 3,000 residents.

The Summerland library was gifted a set of picture books in Japanese and English by Shinsuke Yoshitake. Drop by to read them and see the display celebrating our Sister City, Toyokoro.

Caroline McKay is an Assistant Community Librarian at the Summerland Branch of the Okanagan Regional Library.

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