Springfield visitors who arrive for the first time at Chitose Airport in Hokkaido have no idea what to expect in the remarkable city of Takikawa. Summer, fall, winter, or spring: it is always delightful to return to Takikawa City . . . where one comes as a stranger and leaves as a friend.
Many sister city relationships were born in the 1980’s. There was a realization that forming personal friendships abroad could be as important as the formal relationships that nations have with one another. Hokkaido and Massachusetts already had a state to state relationship that went back to 1876. In 1987, Hokkaido Governor Takahiro Yokomichi was awarded an honorary degree by the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. Returning home to Sapporo, he suggested to friends in Takikawa that they consider developing a sister city relationship with Springfield.
A delegation from Takikawa City came to Massachusetts in 1989. Mary Hurley, the Mayor of Springfield, and Sue Root, Executive Director of the World Affairs Council of Western Massachusetts, were invited to go to Takikawa City in 1991. In 1993, with Mary Markel representing her husband Mayor Robert T. Markel, and Dr. Kathleen Riordan, Chair of Springfield’s Sister City Commission, the signing ceremony in Takikawa made the relationship official. With approximately 150,000 residents, Springfield is three times the size Takikawa - a deficit more than made up by Takikawa's enthusiasm.
History: In 1636, English settlers from eastern Massachusetts came to the Connecticut River valley area that is now Springfield. In 1890, Takikawa Village, with 440 registered citizens, was founded by order of the Hokkaido Government. In 1852, by decree of the Massachusetts General Court, Springfield became a city. Takikawa became a city in 1958 and this year proudly celebrated the 50th anniversary. Springfield is located on the Connecticut River. The Ishikari and Sorachi Rivers come together near Takikawa.
Springfield: In 1794, George Washington, the United States of America's first president, selected Springfield as the site of the first National Armory. Already an arsenal during the American Revolution, the Springfield Armory supplied weapons during the American Civil War and World War I.
Now a National Historic Site, the Springfield Armory has the world's second largest gun collection. Only the Royal Armouries and National Firearms Center in England is larger.
Springfield, Massachusetts was the first of many Springfields in the United States. The greater Springfield area is home to Springfield College, Springfield Technical Community College, American International College, Bay Path College, Elms College, Holyoke Community College, Western New England College, and Westfield State College. At Springfield College, James Naismith invented basketball in 1891. A major tourist attraction in Springfield is the Basketball Hall of Fame.
An area of Springfield known as the Quadrangle is home to the Connecticut Valley Historical Museum, the Science Museum, the George Walter Vincent Smith Museum, and the Museum of Fine Arts. Author Theodore Seuss Geisel was born in Springfield. Adults and children alike enjoy an outdoor sculpture garden with characters from the books by Dr. Seuss.
Takikawa City: Activity in Takikawa varies from season to season. Summer is the time to enjoy sky sports. Mountains surround Takikawa. The city's location in the Ishikari River Valley and favorable thermal currents provide perfect conditions for gliders. Takikawa constructed Japan's first aviation park promoting sky sports and glider championships. Another favorite sport is kayaking at the Takikawa Marine Center.
A winter visit to Takikawa is equally wonderful. Sapporo’s world famous Yuki Matsuri (Snow Festival) is held the first full week-end of February. In 1995, visitors from Springfield, celebrated the 5th Anniversary of the formal signing ceremony of the Massachusetts Hokkaido Association in Sapporo and then went on to Takikawa City to participate in our sister city’s own snow festival. Dry fluffy snow fell every day. A season's average snowfall can total over eight meters. The record snowfall accumulation for one year is 14 meters. (Skiing is included in the school curriculum.)
A favorite place to stay is the city owned conference center that has tatami rooms with futons. Hot springs baths have huge windows that look out on snow covered mountains. There is a big open fireplace in the common room where, in the winter, one can eat famous Hokkaido ramen.
Sister cities have an economic impact but what has made the greatest impact are the opportunities for Springfield and Takikawa students to learn about the culture and customs of Japan and the United States. In 2001, Springfield’s High School of Science and Technology signed a sister school agreement with Takikawa’s Nishi High School. Exchanges, both actual and virtual through the internet, continued through 2005. For high school students, travel to Japan has been a life changing experience. An introduction to Asia before going to college has often led to surprisingly different course and career choices.
In 1990, citizens of Takikawa City celebrated their 100th anniversary as a settlement and made a commitment to send Junior Ambassadors to Springfield every year in September or October. In 2006, Longmeadow High School offered to host the Takikawa Junior Ambassadors. This year Longmeadow again provided home hospitality and opportunities for students to attend classes and participate in student activities. In February of 2008, fifteen Longmeadow High School students, and history teachers Lori Snyder and Eric Howard traveled to Takikawa. A second trip is planned for June 2009. Longmeadow is a suburb of Springfield. Many of the parents of Longmeadow students work in Springfield.
As with all sister city relationships, there is always the challenge to involve new people and to look for ways to energize the relationship. One of the benefits of traveling abroad has always been the ability to discover how others around the world view the United States. Today the countries of the world are connected in many ways. We share concerns about the economy, the environment, health, and peace and security. We also share the things we enjoy: music, movies, sports. What a privilege to be able to discuss these interests and concerns with friends in a sister city half a world away!
Staff members of the International Relations Office in the Takikawa City Hall are (back row) Ryosuke Ogasawara, Matthew Caesar (JET and UMASS graduate), Yasuhiro Yamauchi; (front row) Midori Hiramatsu, Akiko Yamamoto.
For information re: Springfield and Takikawa City