Ibaraki Day celebrates longtime sister city relationship


Every year during the Aquatennial a delegation from Ibaraki, Japan visits Minneapolis making Ibaraki Day very special; this year it was held July 23. Minneapolis and Ibaraki have been most active sister cities since the relationship was formed 26 years ago.

Ibaraki, a city of 250,000 plus people is actually a suburb of Osaka, Japan’s second largest city and is located in the historic Kansai district and heart of old imperial Japan.

Every year too, since 2001, Ibarakis and Minneapolitans have ended Ibaraki Day gathered around and walking through the Bell of Two friends on Nicollet Island. The City of Ibaraki commissioned Minneapolis sculptor Karen Sontag-Sattel to create the 13-foot replica from a 2,000 year old mold of the bell and gave it to Minneapolis on the 20th anniversary of the two cities’ sister relationship.

The ancient mold was only two feet tall, recalls Sontag-Sattel, and she could hold it in her hands. She was asked by Ibaraki to build it 20 feet tall but she couldn’t find a studio with a high enough ceiling, so 13 feet was accepted. In the center of the sculpture is a five-foot-high archway where a cord attached to a bell hangs. The cord is pulled and the bell is rung by people as they pass through the arch. It is said, every time the bell is rung two prayers are sent — one for the friendship of the peoples of Minneapolis and Ibaraki and one for world peace.

That friendship between the two cities was strongly felt throughout the day. Minneapolis-Ibaraki Sister City Association (MISCA) chartered the Minneapolis Queen steamboat and reserved the upper deck. People boarded the boat at Boone Island for a relaxing trip on the Mississippi, through the Saint Anthony Falls lock and dam, past the James J. Hill Stone Arch Bridge and, of course, Nicollet Island and the Bell of Two friends.

Among the passengers were the Ibaraki City English Language Study Group; sculptor Sontag-Sattel and her husband Jack; Minneapolis City Council President, Barbra Johnson; Katie Fournier, nine years in charge of Minneapolis’ international division and the city’s sister cities affiliation; MISCA’s President, Lois Sonstegard; and Minneapolis Convention & Visitors Association executive and MISCA member, Bill Deef.

As always the Minneapolis Queen crew gave a historical and entertaining narrative about what is seen from the boat. Because of the many Ibaraki visitors on board, MISCA member Shiro Katagiri picked up a mike and delivered a perfect Japanese translation of that narrative. The visitors were pleased.

And while the passengers talked about the river, the lock and dam and smooth ride, some talked about the upcoming Minneapolis delegation visit to Ibaraki, September 13 to 21 taking in the Bio Japan trade show held in Osaka. Minneapolis Mayor R. T. Rybak and Council President Johnson will be part of that delegation.

As always, the group ended the day by gathering at the Bell of Two friends. Sontag-Sattel and Fournier spoke, a group photo was taken before everyone walked through the archway pulling the cord that rang the bell. It was easy to see, by looking at the faces of the people going through, that the prayer for friendship of the peoples of Minneapolis and Ibaraki had been answered. Now, as one participant put it, if only the prayer for world peace would be fulfilled, it would be wonderful beyond all expectations.