Saanich is about to make history by exploring a sister city relationship with a suburb of Hiroshima.
Mayor Katsuhiro Shinno of Hatsukaichi City will visit Saanich April 23 to 25 to tour and learn more about the municipality.
“This is a big event,” said Mayor Richard Atwell, when asked about the upcoming visit. “This is very serious.”
Saanich currently lacks a friendship or sister city relationship with any community and the two sides would still need to develop a formal sister city protocol following Mayor Shinno’s visit, said Atwell, who notes that this is just a first meeting, with no firm commitment yet.
But if details remain to be sorted, Saanich should embrace the relationship because of its would-be benefits.
“With its diverse cultural base, not to mention the UVic and Camosun student populations at our three campuses of higher learning, the potential for tourism, trade and knowledge exchange between Saanich and Hatsukaichi has great potential and should be explored with open arms,” he said.
Thanks to its beaches and local attractions, including the Miyajima Itsukushima Shrine, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Hatsukaichi City is a popular tourist destination for Japanese and foreign visitors. As a seaside community with a population of just 118,000, whose city limits “stretch from the coast, far inland into the [mountains], and largely rural hinterland,” it also offers striking similarities to Saanich (pop:114,000).
Part of a larger metropolitan area, an official brochure describes Hatsukaichi City as a “bed town” for the area. It is also home to several shopping centres, including a large mall called You Me Town Hatsukaichi.
These similarities, however, threaten to obscure the deeper ties between the community around the issue of nuclear disarmament.
The centre of Hiroshima — which an American nuclear bomb struck on Aug. 6, 1945 during the waning days of the Second World War — is less than half an hour away from Hatsukaichi City, and a local non-governmental organization organizes educational sessions around the subject, inclusive visit to the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park, where the ruins of the Hiroshima Prefectural Industrial Promotion Hall stand as they did on the day of the attack.
Last September, Rudi Hoenson, a survivor of the U.S. nuclear attack on the Japanese city of Nagasaki on Aug. 9, 1945, planted a ceremonial peace tree near Saanich’s Municipal Hall. The eight-inch tall Ginkgo biloba seedling grew from a seed, which had survived the explosion in Hiroshima.
Saanich, for its part, has also been actively promoting statements against the proliferation and use of nuclear arms.