OLYMPIA — A delegation of 250 people from a prefecture in Japan is visiting Washington to celebrate 50 years of a sister-state relationship.
Leaders from Washington state and the Hyogo Prefecture — which contains Kobe, and of local note Sasayama — will renew their ties with a joint agreement Monday afternoon in Olympia. They will then gather to celebrate with food and entertainment that honors both regions.
Hyogo Gov. Toshizo Ido is among the members of the delegation visiting the state.
Schuyler Hoss, director of international relations for Gov. Jay Inslee, said the relationship has had cultural, educational and business benefits for both sides. In part, he said it helped give Washington political leaders and businesses a more international focus over the years.
“This relationship really did create an awareness and opened people’s eyes about the opportunities beyond our borders,” Hoss said.
Costco and Starbucks are among the Washington-based companies with large presences in Kobe, the largest city in the Hyogo Prefecture, said Hoss. Kobe is famous for its namesake beef.
Hoss said there is a lot of interest in expanding educational exchanges between the two states. The universities in Washington and Hyogo have longstanding relationships, and Hoss said officials are interested in also pursuing exchanges in the K-12 system.
Hoss said there also is ongoing interest in expanding the use of Seattle and Kobe ports as distribution points for imports and exports, as well as improved air service between the two regions and expanded tourism ties. Along with ceremonial activities in Olympia on Monday, the Hyogo delegation will meet with counterparts in the Seattle area.
Former Washington Gov. Al Rosellini first began the sister-state relationship during a visit to Japan in 1963. Now, 12 Washington cities including Walla Walla have sister cities in Hyogo.
Hyogo is prefecture of more than 5 million people.