Marissa Kozel, Communications Director and Lonie Stimac, Senior Marketing Officer
Lieutenant Governor John Bohlinger welcomed a delegation from Kumamoto, Japan led by Kumamoto Lieutenant Governor Shinichi Murata, on Wednesday, July 11, 2012. This special meeting marked the 30th Anniversary of the Montana- Kumamoto sister-state relationship.
Immediately following the 9:30 a.m. meeting, Lt. Gov. Bohlinger and Lt. Gov. Murata participated in a tree planting ceremony on the Montana State Capitol grounds to commemorate the anniversary. Cherry trees were planted to represent both the international partnership and 100th anniversary of the Japanese gift of cherry trees to the people of the United States. Joining Lt. Governor Bohlinger was Dore Schwinden, Director, Montana Department of Commerce, and Ian Marquand, President, Montana-Japan Friendship Club.
Members of the Kumamoto delegation will included Yasunari Ishihara, President of the Kumamoto-Montana Club, and members of the Montana Club who traveled to Montana for the occasion. Both clubs are volunteer citizen delegations that support exchange activities between Montana and Kumamoto.
In 1979, Mike Mansfield, US Ambassador to Japan, began discussions with the Governors of Kumamoto and Montana to urge the regions to establish sister relations. In 1982, Kumamoto Governor Issei Sawada joined Montana Governor Ted Schwinden at a ceremony in the Montana State Capitol to sign a sister relationship agreement between Montana and Kumamoto. This partnership established a forum for the creative exchange of information, ideas, and people. In 1983 the Montana Senate and House of Representatives passed a joint resolution endorsing Montana’s sister relationship with Kumamoto Prefecture.
The vitality of the sister relationship has been an ongoing people to people exchange. Cultural understanding and close friendships have been fostered by a diverse number of exchanges which have included music, sports, disabled persons, business, performing & visual arts, and traditional festivals.