St. Paul-Nagasaki Sister City celebration


The 55th Annual Meeting and Dinner of the Saint Paul-Nagasaki Sister City Committee (SPNSCC) was held Saturday, December 4th, at the Oxford Community Center.  It came together as the organization’s annual meetings have for the past half a century plus informative, entertaining and filled with camaraderie. Popular President Elizabeth Simmer did a splendid job of holding the meeting together as emcee.

JoAnn Blatchley was elected President and former President Chris Rossow was made an Active Life Member. Blatchley will take over the presidency from Simmer on July 1st next year when Simmer steps down because of other commitments.  Rossow also won the drawing for a photo of the Lantern Lighting Festival from photographer Peter Leach’s exhibit that toured Nagasaki this summer.

There were two awards given this year.  Long time Como Ordway Japanese Garden volunteer Joan Murphy received the Chip Fricke Award.  The first Chip Fricke Award was given in 1992 to then Saint Paul Mayor Jim Scheibel for his successful fund raiser to place sculpture Paul Granlund’s Constellation Earth in Nagasaki Peace Park the first peace monument from the United States to be placed there.  Murphy volunteered many years at the Como Ordway Japanese Garden.  Her desire was to keep the garden original, which she did and introduced thousands of visitors to an authentic look at a traditional Japanese garden.

Sam Honda, who passed away from cancer two weeks earlier, received posthumously the new Sam Honda Volunteer Award named after him.  Honda who served in the Military Language School at Fort Snelling during the war not only aided SPNSCC with his thoughts, ideas and labor he did so for most of the Twin Cities Japanese organizations. He headed and kept strong the Japanese American Citizen League’s Nikkei project longer than many people can remember.

The Saint Paul Civic Symphony Orchestra’s (SPCSO) String Quartet entertained through the dinner hour playing popular music, standard jazz and early ragtime pieces. SPCSO is a sister orchestra with the Nagasaki Symphony Orchestra.  Both organizations are amateur groups and know a lot about each other as they traveled and play in each other’s cities often.

Former President, Jim Kunzman wrote, put together and lent his voice to an accurate and entertaining DVD of SPNSCC’s first 55-year history.  He received many well deserved compliments from those in attendance.

President Simmer’s emcee skills were entertaining and greatly appreciated too as was her service as president.  She thanked the board and membership for the good work they did: “When something needs to be done someone jumps up and does it.  There is no way we can have all the activates completed without your cooperation.”

Honorary Consul General of Japan at Minneapolis, Mirja Hanson was the keynote speaker and the star of the show.  She was born in New York to Finnish missionaries who were flying to a church in Japan.  The plane had to set down in New York to allow Mirja’s birth making her an American citizen three days before Saint Paul and Nagasaki became international partners.  In Japan she became active in American and Japanese relations and continued being active in Minnesota where she served as President of the Japan America Society of Minnesota.

She served as a facilitator helping many organizations perform; one of which was SPNSCC.  Two of the questions she asks her clients are what is your mission and what are some of your thoughts on that mission? SPNSCC answers impressed her and she credits SPNSCC with practicing good citizen diplomacy.  According to a recent Gallup Poll, she said that 80 percent of the people of Japan and the United States feels a strong trust with each other.

She talks about the strength and the longevity of SPNSCC wherever she goes. She told the men at the Naval Base at the Minneapolis/Saint Paul Airport about the relationship and found out their relationship is just as long and strong.  They are the landbased backup for the Yokosuka Naval base in Japan and every year put together a Navel Far East conference. She closed by saying,

2010 saw the first American Ambassador to Japan, John Roos attend an anniversary ceremony of the atomic bombing.  “I feel like my role is to proudly represent the citizen diplomacy. That has been happening long before this high level (Roos’ first visit) selection.  I really want to commend you for that.”