Pembertons sister city relationship with Miya Village officially ended when the Japanese town was annexed by an adjacent city more than a year ago. However, Shenji Akiyama thinks the relationship needs to be revitalized.
Akiyama, representing CECA International, an educational exchange association, recently outlined his vision for reaffirming this relationship with the village council. He pointed out that the students from Pemberton Secondary School will be going to Japan this November and 20 of the students Japanese counterparts would be arriving in the Pemberton Valley in March 2007.
"The relationship between the schools continues," said Akiyama. "But the relationship between communities needs to be revitalized."
Akiyama noted that there are currently 300 members of Ichinomiya-Pemberton.
The cornerstone of Akiyamas revitalization plan is to generate more information about possible trade opportunities by featuring locally produced Pemberton products to Ichinomiya.
"We would like to impot Canadian products from this area and do trade shows so (The Ichinomiya-Pemberton Friendship Society) can increase awareness of importance of relationship between Pemberton and Ichinomiya and Canada and Japan."
An actual blueprint on how this trade relationship could be achieved was not presented. What was presented was an immediate need to reinstate the structure of the exchange program.
The students from Ichinomiya will be visiting the Pemberton area for four nights and will require host families. The cost of participating in the program is negligible. The CECA and students families pay for home-stay costs and most of the other activities, including a dinner out, party and games day that take place during their whirlwind stay. Typically the students arrive on a Thursday night, attend school with the Pemberton exchange program participants and depart on the following Monday.
Akiyama asked that as a first step towards strengthening the Pemberton-Ichinomiya relationship the mayor and council appoint someone to coordinate the home-stay portion of the programming.
Former mayor Elinor Warner had been instrumental in overseeing the program during her time in office. Acknowledging Mayor Jordan Sturdys time constraints, Councillor Mark Blundell stepped forward to offer his support. Blundell, who, at his own expense, accompanied previous delegations to Japan, was enthusiastic.
"I think its a wonderful opportunity for our kids to go to Japan. I think that relationship should continue," he said.