Hokkaido Day October 19, 2015

Massachusetts State House

State House Tour
Hokkaido Government Vice-Governor Yamaya, Speaker Endo and the delegation of twenty-eight were received by Massachusetts Hokkaido Association (MHA) Vice-President Kiyoko Morita and Hunter Richards from Massachusetts Office of International Trade and Investment (MOITI).  Then, Brittany McDonough of MOITI led the tour through the Memorial Hall, the Grand Staircase, the House of Representatives, the Senate, and the Office of Senate President Stanley Rosenberg.

Meeting with Senate President Stanley Rosenberg
After their tour, the delegation was warmly received by Senate President, Stanley Rosenberg.  After photo opportunities and gift-giving, the Senate President and the delegation had an open dialogue.  Spirits were high when Vice Governor Yamaya, Speaker Endo, Consul General Himeno, and MHA Vice-President Morita were called to Governor Baker’s office.  The remaining members of the delegation were brought to the Great Hall.

Meeting with Governor Charlie Baker
Governor Baker was deeply moved by what he learned about the history of the Massachusetts Hokkaido relationship.  Though on crutches from a sports injury, the Governor enthusiastically moved to the Great Hall for the signing ceremony.

Massachusetts and Hokkaido Information Packets
One goal of the event was for the Massachusetts and Hokkaido participants to learn more about each other’s countries and states.  Packaged information was one strategy. On arrival at Logan Airport, the Hokkaido delegation was given a variety of information about Massachusetts that they could read at their hotel that night.  At the Great Hall they were also given more information, as well as a variety of paraphernalia that included items from the Boston Red Sox and free tickets to Ramen Santoka in Cambridge (originally from Asahikawa, Hokkaido).

The Hokkaido Government and the Consulate General of Boston provided a variety of information about Japan and Hokkaido for the Massachusetts Hokkaido Association who packaged it for the event.  The Consulate General of Boston put together packets that consisted of a booklet, “Visit Japan Today!”, “Visit Japan Pocket Guide,” a tourist map of Japan [all from JNTO], a JETRO brochure on industrial tourism and two Nipponica magazines.

The organizers were very pleased that every attendee received his or her packet and also took it with them at the conclusion of the event.  Some participants requested additional copies.  In addition, the Hokkaido Government sent so many copies of their materials that the MHA would be able to distribute them during the Japan Festival next spring.  Some of the treats the guests from Massachusetts and Hokkaido enjoyed included: Sapporo Nogakko (Sapporo Agricultural College, predecessor of Hokkaido University) cookies from Hokkaido, and Ocean Spray chocolate covered cranberries and Cape Cod potato chips from Massachusetts (arranged for by Representative Keiko Orrall).  Traditional Nantucket baskets were also on display by GrayMist, which helped the participants understand that Massachusetts’ territory also includes a number of well known islands.

Signing of the Agreement and the Giving of Gifts
The ceremony began with a welcome from Governor Baker who was followed by Hokkaido Vice-Governor Yamaya.  The agreements were then signed and gifts were exchanged.  The sincerity of the Governor and the Vice-Governor reinforced the feelings of friendship among the attendees.

Of special note, during their meeting in Governer Baker’s office, Vice Governor Yamaya had told the Governor that Hokkaido people, old and young, took to heart the famous words of Dr. William Clark “Boys, be ambitious!” This so moved Governor Baker that he later asked Vice Governor Yamaya to retell the story to the entire luncheon audience.  This impromptu item was added to the program, and everyone enjoyed it.  It also meant a great deal to the delegation (who later called MA the best state of all), and gained their commitment to continue this relationship.  Both Hokkaido and Massachusetts’ guests were moved when hearing the Governor’s sincere and genuinely warm words.  His speech ended with “You are always, always welcome”.

Musical Highlights
The Longmeadow High School Lyrics led by their music director, Ms. Kayla Werlin, performed two pieces for the audience.  The first piece was “To Layered Voices” (Kasanaru Koe-ni) by Kentaro Sato. It was commissioned by the Kushiro Chorus Association for its 40th anniversary and premiered in 2014 in Hokkaido.

The second piece was the premier of “Hokkaido Pioneers,” composed by Takashi Koto and commissioned by the MHA for the occasion to celebrate the Massachusetts Hokkaido Sister State Relationship.  It honors the pioneers from Japan and Massachusetts who developed Hokkaido in the 19th century.

The music was uplifting and captured the spirit and beauty of Hokkaido. Governor Baker was bursting with pride watching "his" young people elevate the entire event. The audience was delighted and fully focused on the students. Their expressions were a mixture of beaming smiles and being deeply moved. Many in the audience were nearly brought to tears.

Luncheon Speakers

The luncheon speakers were as follows:

  • Mr. Nam Pham, Massachusetts Assistant Secretary of Business Development and International Trade 
  • Mr. Tsutomo “Tom” Himeno, Consul General of Japan, Boston
  • Mr. Ren Endo, Speaker, Hokkaido Legislative Assembly
  • Dr. Tom Curtin, President, Massachusetts Hokkaido Association

Interactions Among Attendees
Guests had a half hour to observe the displays and get settled at their tables before the signing ceremony began.  Great care was taken to have bi-lingual speakers at each table and to seat people by their shared interests to ensure meaningful interaction.

Of special note, we were very fortunate to have MHA member Satoru Murata (Ph.D. in Archeology from B.U. and a native of Asahikawa, Hokkaido) as an interpreter for the day.

Visit to Fenway Park
After the events at the State House, three members of the Nanae delegation and two members of the Hokkaido International Exchange and Cooperation Center went to Fenway Park at the invitation of the Boston Red Sox.  While the visit was essentially tourism, the group was informed about some winter activities at Fenway Park that might prove of interest to Hokkaido.

Visit to the Cambridge Innovation Center
After the luncheon, the remainder of the delegation went to the Cambridge Innovation Center (CIC). One goal for the future of the Massachusetts Hokkaido relationship is to reinvigorate the economic and business relationship between Hokkaido and Massachusetts. 

The Massachusetts innovation economy is based on entrepreneurship, technology, clean energy, pharmaceuticals, and biotechnology. The Cambridge Innovation Center is a highly successful site of entrepreneurship and an incubator for new businesses.

The goal of the visit was to educate the delegation about the CIC, what it does, and how it ties in to the other parts of the innovation economy in Massachusetts. It was also an opportunity to learn about public-private collaborations such as the Clean Energy Center and the Life Sciences Center.

Hokkaido Day Summary
In the last five years Hokkaido and Massachusetts have solidified the many friendships that began many years ago. During the October 19, 2015 Hokkaido Day, new collaborations between our colleges and universities were initiated.  Our legislators opened new lines of communication. And in the afternoon new models of innovation were shared.  The celebration was forward looking and points toward a prosperous future for our relationship.

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