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Japan’s Inagi City Bestows JACLer Steve Okamoto With Service Award

By February 23, 2024June 20th, 2024No Comments

JACL San Mateo Chapter President Steve Okamoto (back row, center, holding award) is pictured with friends and family as Inagi City residents look on virtually with his meritorious service award from Inagi City. (Photo: Courtesy of Steve Okamoto)

FOSTER CITY, Calif. — At a virtual award ceremony held Jan. 4 at the Foster City Council Chambers, former Council Member Steve Okamoto, who also serves as the president of the San Mateo JACL chapter, received the “2023 Inagi City, Japan, Award for Meritorious Service” for his contribution in creating the Inagi City-Foster City Sister City relationship. A group from Inagi City was projected on the Foster City screen while many of Okamoto’s friends and family watched from the gallery.

Okamoto, as a council member from 2011-15, wanted to create an international sister city with one in Japan because Foster City, in its 53-year history, never had that sort of relationship.

He invited many cities in Japan to become a sister city, but none had what Okamoto felt “was the right fit.” He enlisted the aid of the Japan Consulate in San Francisco to aid in his search.

In 2017, they found the perfect match, Inagi City, which is within metropolitan Tokyo.

Both cities were environmentally conscious, supported their sports team and had become incorporated as a municipality in 1971.

After several visits from the Inagi City team and with the Foster City group traveling to Japan, in 2021, a virtual signing ceremony was also held at the Foster City Council Chambers, making official the relationship between the two cities.

Since then, several programs between the two cities have started.

In 2022, a pen pal program was started with 54 Foster City students emailing their counterparts in Japan. That program still exists and has created many email friendships.

In 2022, 35 residents of Foster City visited Japan and, specifically, Inagi City, during its city festival and enjoyed Japanese food and culture.

After the trip, many of the visitors commented on how the people of Japan were extremely courteous, friendly and helpful, despite the language difference.

In early 2023, a group of Inagi City residents visited Foster City and spent a wonderful weekend being honored by the school district staff, a boat ride through the waters of Foster City and a banquet, culminated with a concert by the children of Foster City’s orchestra.

The afternoon ended with the traditional exchanging of gifts.