Trip Highlights Shared Interests among Portland, Japanese Cities
TUESDAY, SEPT. 9, 2014—Mayor Charlie Hales and a delegation of Portland government and business officials today return from a five-day trade mission in Japan, where they connected with culture, business and tourism partners in one of Oregon’s top export destinations.
(Clip from the Tokyo Fish Market.)
Hales’ visit to Sapporo, Portland’s oldest sister city relationship, followed a 90-person Sapporo delegation trip to Portland in June. The mayor was joined by Portland’s chief lobbyist, Government Relations Director Martha Pellegrino; Portland Development Commission International Business Development Officer Mitsu Yamazaki; and the city’s International Relations Liaison, Hector Miramontes.
“This was a tremendous experience,” Hales said. “Our cities have shared interests and issues. We learned a lot from them, and they learned a lot from us.”
The trip started with a number of arts- and culture-related stops, and ended with business tours and meetings and urban design and policy discussions.
“There are so many artistic, cultural, educational and economic connections between Japan and Portland,” Pellegrino said. “Portland’s star is clearly rising in our sister city, Sapporo, and in Tokyo.”
The delegation found striking similarities between Portland and its sister city. Hales was excited to see how invested Sapporo is in the relationship, with Portland Square—one of Pellegrino’s favorite stops—and a rose garden in honor of Portland.
Yamazaki was impressed with his tour of Sapporo, led by a professor of urban planning from Hokkaido University, which highlighted Sapporo’s likeness to Portland: “There are park blocks called Odori Park; streetcars crisscrossing the city; active pediatrician walkways; contrast between old and new building in a confined area much like Pearl. To top it off the list, the professor took me up on the southwestern hill to view the entire city from the above, with reminded me of the fabulous outlook from Pittock Mansion or (Oregon Health & Science University).”
While the delegation was impressed with how well-known Portland was in Japan, Hales still plugged the city as a destination for both business and visitors.
On Saturday morning, Hales and Yamazaki introduced “Lifestyle Portland,” a seminar promoting Portland as a prime tourism and business destination. Jeff Hammerly of Travel Portland also was there. The event built on the already-strong recognition of Portland in popular magazines and newspapers in Japan.
That afternoon, Hales presented at the Ninth International Symposium of America-Japan Societies in Sapporo, Hokkaido, on celebrating 55 years as a sister city with shared values of sustainability.
The delegation traveled to Tokyo on Sunday, and on Monday spent the day with business and industry.
They toured a Kanto Factory in the city of Koga — among the delegation’s favorite experiences. Kanto Factory is a product demonstration campus of the Sekisui House, one of Japan’s largest homebuilders. The factory showcases the company’s latest technologies materials and designs, such as an earthquake simulator within a model house. The product demonstration campus is located next to Sekisui’s largest factory, churning out all the components to make a house every 7 minutes, serving 40 million people around the Tokyo metro region. Its materials recycling facility recycles 80 different materials from the homebuilding operation.
The delegation later lunched in Tokyo with Sekisui House CEO Isami Wada, and met with the executive vice president of Mitsui Fudosan, a major real estate developer in Japan. On Tuesday, the final visit of the trip was with the Tokyo Foundation Think Tank, a nonprofit that provides policy analysis on Japan’s domestic and international issues.
Portland’s experience as a waterfront city lent valuable insight to a meeting with the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transportation and Tourism at the headquarters for the Mizbering Project, which is working to transition from government control of rivers to commercial and recreational use. Hales shared with the ministry his perspective on and Portland’s historical experience with waterfront development, public engagement, and creative urban planning and development.
“Portland, Oregon, Mayor Charlie Hales met with Japan’s Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport in Tokyo. We exchanged opinions and promoted the Mizbering project. The city of Portland is now ranked as the No. 1 environmental city in the United States. However, the city’s once dirty river devastated the city. But citizens participated in creative solutions, and have achieved a sustainable city and waterfront redevelopment. Columbia Sportswear, Nike and other outdoor manufacturers are headquartered there, and naturally combines the sport outfitting with the city’s active culture. Portland is now in the spotlight in various magazines. Mizbering project also examines Portland as a waterfront city that offers many things to learn from!”