I was one of 19 people fortunate enough to recently visit our sister city of Toyokoro in Hokkaido, Japan.
It was an amazing experience and I will never be the same.
The graciousness of these wonderful people was an eye-opener.
Watching our Summerland royalty expand their horizons and engage with a very different culture was inspiring.
I personally got to view how the Japanese deal with parking (where land is at a premium). Their parkades are like car vending machines…you drive in, pay your fee and your car is whisked away, either underground or up several stories to a storage spot to be retrieved when you return. No forgetting where you parked your car.
The Japanese have no garbage receptacles…anywhere. You create garbage, you take it with you. No garbage cans on the streets, in restaurants, in washrooms or in stores. Everything is spotless.
Most commuters ride bicycles. Women in business suits and high heels, office workers, everyone rides bicycles.
They don’t have bicycle lanes, as all bicycles go on the sidewalks…and no one wears bicycle helmets. Turns out they believe pedestrians and cyclists mix better than cars and cyclists.
Their sidewalks are much wider to accommodate both, and they have a textured strip to aid the visually impaired.
Their honesty is incredible. One of our travellers left their iPad on the railing of a communal deck outside our hotel room. They were very concerned but upon our return a gentleman was waiting at the bus door to hand it back to them…with both hands. I still don’t know how he knew which of us owned that iPad.
Their city hall, (municipal government) manages the health care system, the education system, the social system as well as what we consider to be municipal functions. The town of Toyokoro owns and operates farmland including packaging and distribution. All of this in a town of 3,000 people.
We can learn a lot from these people and from looking outside our very small environment.
I feel extremely fortunate to have been given a very intimate look into how a small rural farming town in Japan manages its business. All by very gracious and forthcoming people.
I hope the Sister City program continues for a very long time to come.