Gov. Rick Snyder and Gov. Taizo Mikazuki from Michigan’s sister state, Shiga Prefecture in Japan, planted a cherry tree in the Japanese Garden at Meijer Gardens Tuesday in celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Michigan-Shiga sister state relationship. The two governors also participated in a signing ceremony last Friday to renew the sister state agreement for another 50 years.
“The Michigan-Shiga partnership is one of the oldest sister state agreements between the United States and Japan. We value this long-term friendship and are proud to continue this agreement with Gov. Mikazuki and the Shiga Prefecture,” Snyder said. “It signifies a mutual commitment to our partnership and further promotes the cultural and economic development of the state of Michigan and Shiga. I look forward to even more growth in our relationship over the next 50 years.”
The tree planting and closing ceremony event at Meijer Gardens was the final stop in a weeklong tour of Michigan for a group of government officials visiting from Shiga. Other events during the delegation’s visit included the grand opening of the Sakura Garden at Michigan State University’s Tollgate Farm and Education Center in Novi last Friday. In addition, the Japan Business Society of Detroit announced it had raised $125,000 for the Michigan-Shiga Sister State Board endowment fund, which was created to support the relationship between Shiga and Michigan. This donation brought the total amount raised to $146,525 in the initial round of funding.
“Countless people from both Michigan and Shiga have added their efforts in making this sister relationship the success that it is today. I hope our friendship will extend out into the world and inspire others, now and for many generations to come,” Mikazuki said. “We have learned that caring about people from another country is a gift that never stops giving. We must celebrate our diversity, but also cherish the humanity we share, and we must continue to push the limits of understanding and the levels of our commitment.”
Following the tree-planting ceremony, the governors previewed a new exhibition, Process and Presence: Contemporary Disability Sculpture. The exhibition, a joint creation of Meijer Gardens and Grand Rapids-based arts and culture organization DisArt, is a celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Michigan-Shiga sister state relationship and highlights the unique talent of disabled people in the arts.
In addition to the governor’s delegation visiting from the Shiga prefecture, several other Japanese delegations have been in Michigan recently, including:
- Shiga Prefectural Assembly
- Economic Mission led by Shiga Prefecture Chamber of Commerce and Industry
- Shiga Goodwill Mission
- Shiga High School Exchange
The sister-state relationship was established in 1968 when then-Michigan Gov. George Romney and Shiga Governor Kinichiro Nozaki signed the agreement. Since then, thousands of residents from Michigan and Shiga have participated in cross-cultural exchange activities, including student and teacher exchanges, cultural events, art exhibits, and artist exchanges, as well as economic development initiatives.
The relationship has inspired cultural sites in Michigan, including the Japanese garden at Michigan State University, Shigematsu Memorial Japanese Garden at Lansing Community College, the annual Japan Festival in Novi, Michigan, Japanese Quiz Bowl, and the Michigan Language Japanese Speech Contest.
The sister state relationship also has led to the creation of the Japan Center for Michigan Universities, which provides immersive education for students from across the state interested in a study abroad program in Japan. JCMU is celebrating its 30th anniversary and has hosted and participated in a number of events related to the Michigan-Shiga sister state relationship’s 50th anniversary.
The 50-year celebration kicked off in September 2017 during Snyder’s investment mission to Japan, his fourth visit to that country.