LIHU‘E — Mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr. on Wednesday departed for Iwaki City, Japan, and will return to Kaua‘i Monday evening.
George Costa, director of the Office of Economic Development, and Kaua‘i Film Commissioner Art Umezu are accompanying the mayor, a county news release states.
“I am honored to have received a personal invitation from the mayor of Iwaki City, Takao Watanabe, to attend the Iwaki Restoration Festival,” Carvalho said. “It is considered a very significant event as the aim of the festival is to bring residents together to reflect upon and celebrate the progress they’ve made since the March 11 devastation.”
The mayor’s itinerary also includes many other activities.
On the first day of his visit, the mayor will attend media day at the Japan Association of Travel Agents’ Travel Showcase, Asia’s largest tourism exhibition. The showcase is expected to draw over 120,000 visitors.
While at the JATA showcase, the mayor will stop by the Kaua‘i Visitors Bureau booth and take the opportunity to speak with media representatives from all across Asia.
In a ceremony marking the re-opening of one of Japan’s largest theme parks Spa Resort Hawaiians, the mayor is scheduled to do welcome remarks along with SRH officials. The resort has been closed since March 11.
On the same day, the mayor will address another large crowd during the opening ceremony of the Ganbappe! Iwaki Fukko Sai (We can do it! Iwaki Restoration Festival) , and present the artwork, bracelets and key chains made by Wilcox Elementary School students for students at an elementary school in Iwaki City.
Included in the festivities is the final show for a hula caravan that has been touring Japan for the last six months spreading hope as the country moves forward with its recovery and restoration efforts.
At a reception that evening, the mayor will present symbolic checks of the money raised on Kaua‘i for Iwaki residents through two benefit concerts, Kaua‘i: Aloha for Japan and Bayanihan for Japan, and a golf tournament sponsored by Kaua‘i Lagoons and the Kaua‘i Visitors Bureau.
In addition, funds raised by Denise Kodani-Karratti through sales of a specially designed T-shirt will be acknowledged. Kodani-Karratti taught English a few years ago at a high school in Soma City located about 60 miles north of Iwaki. The town was devastated by the March 11 tsunami and several of her students were lost in the tragedy.
“I am so proud of our residents for reaching out to our newest sister city and helping them in their time of need,” said Mayor Carvalho. “It will be an honor and privilege to pass on their heartfelt gifts.”
The Iwaki Restoration Festival will also serve to commemorate the 45th anniversary of the formation of Iwaki City, which united 14 townships. Several major events that were previously held separately will be integrated into the festival including: the Grand Exhibition for Iwaki Products and Trade Promotion; Iwaki Local Industries Festival; and Iwaki Dance Festival.
“I look forward to joining the people and leaders of Iwaki City as they celebrate the unified effort that has enabled them to move forward with restoring and rebuilding their city,” said Costa. “It will also be a great opportunity for us to examine economic development opportunities for Kaua‘i.”
Other activities planned for the mayor’s Iwaki trip include a visit with Iwaki leaders to discuss energy and agricultural programs. The Mayor will visit Iwaki City Mayor Takao Watanabe and reaffirm sister city relationship.
The group will visit Higashi Nihon International University and its president Takao Takyu, who earlier this year signed an agreement with Kaua‘i Community College Chancellor Helen Cox and established a student exchange program between the two colleges.
The group will visit with the organizers of the Iwaki City Sunshine Marathon and recent winner Rumi Otani who also placed first overall in the women’s category in the Third annual Kaua‘i Marathon. Plans include the mayor saying a few words at a runner’s workshop to encourage attendees to participate in the Kaua‘i Marathon.
The group will also visit Nissan Motors parts manufacturing plant and tour areas damaged by the March 11 tsunami and earthquake.
Two weeks ago, Mayor Carvalho and Kazuichi Ishii, director of Iwaki City, Tokyo office, signed a formal sister-city agreement at the Lihu‘e Civic Center. A six-member delegation from Iwaki City accompanied Ishii during his Kaua‘i visit.
Like the Garden Isle, tourism is a major industry in Iwaki City drawing approximately 10 million visitors annually.
Iwaki is also known as the economic and industrial hub of the Tohoku region where several companies have large factories including: Nissan Motors; Alpine Stereo; and Honey’s, a clothing manufacturer that produces large quantities of aloha attire.
During the double disaster of March 11, more than 300 people died in Iwaki City and 50,000 homes sustained major damage. Four people are still missing.