The District of Sooke and Natori, Japan will soon become sister cities, solidifying a partnership promoting cultural, educational and business ties.
Sooke council unanimously passed a resolution accepting a sister city agreement between the two communities.
“I think just having relations with other municipalities in other parts of the world helps us appreciate and understand one another better,” said Mayor Maja Tait, who lived near Natori in the early 1990s.
The resolution does not make specific commitments. A sister city agreement is ceremonial but is usually accompanied by special programs and initiatives.
The relationship between Sooke and Natori dates back more than 20 years when a devastating 9.0-magnitude earthquake and 10-metre tsunami, causing loss of life and property, struck the Japanese city. The Canadian government offered disaster aid and sent relief workers to the region, while Sooke residents fundraised heavily to assist Natori residents.
In a unique partnership, the federal and provincial governments partnered with the Canadian forest industry to provide $4. 5 million in support of reconstruction efforts using Canadian wood-framed construction techniques and materials.
Natori benefited from the initiative, with the building of several local facilities.
Over the years, a Japanese delegation visited Sooke with student cultural exchanges, the foundation of the “friendship” relationship.
The two cities were set to sign the sister city agreement in March 2020, but COVID-19 travel restrictions cancelled that event. The two local governments have continued to talk by video conferencing through the pandemic.
Natori Mayor Shiro Yamada plans to travel with a student cultural exchange in March 2023 to sign the agreement in Sooke.
Natori is located on Japan’s east coast and has a population of 80,000. Its economy centres on agriculture, fishing and secondary process industries.