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|Santa Monica Councilmember Headed to Japan|
| By Jonathan Friedman
February 21, 2017 -- The City of Santa Monica will be recognized during a ceremony several thousand miles away next month, and Councilmember Tony Vazquez will be there to celebrate.
Council members authorized last Tuesday that an unspecified amount of money be used from the “council travel funds” to pay for Vazquez’s visit to Kizugawa, Japan for a Friendship City Signing Celebration.
The council passed a resolution naming Kizugawa a friendship city in July when Vazquez was mayor.
The resolution stated that the two cities shared “similar goals of international cooperation, mutual prosperity and world peace.” (“Council Finalizes Santa Monica Anti-Corruption Measure for Ballot, Names Friendship City,” July 29, 2016).
Friendship city is a lower status than sister city, but Vazquez said in July that Kizugawa could be elevated in the future.
Located in the southern portion of the country, Kizugawa only became a city in 2007 when three towns merged.
Santa Monica began a relationship with one of those towns -- Kizu -- in 1999 that has continued after the formation of Kizugawa, according to the Santa Monica Sister City Association.
Nearly 150 junior high school students have come from Kizu or Kizugawa to Santa Monica in the past 18 years to experience American culture.
“The aim of this program is to give the next generation of Kizugawa’s children an opportunity to contribute towards a more international society and also to deepen the friendship between the cities of Santa Monica and Kizugawa,” the Santa Monica Sister City Association’s website states.
Vazquez’s trip will be the second official Santa Monica visit to Japan in recent years.
In 2015, then-Mayor Kevin McKeown led a delegation to Fujinomiya to celebrate the 40th anniversary of it being a sister city with Santa Monica (“Santa Monica Celebrates 40th Anniversary with Sister City in Japan,” August 18, 2015).
McKeown offered what he called “unsolicited advice” to Vazquez for his visit to Japan.
“Beware of special events you don’t understand and make sure you know what’s on the menu,” McKeown said. “Been there, done that.”
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