In honor of the 45th Anniversary of the Sister City relationship with Kitami, Japan, Mayor J. Christian Bollwage, the City of Elizabeth and City Council welcomed visitors for five days during the first week of October. The delegation included the Mayor of Kitami, Makoto Sakurada; Vice Chairman of the City Council, Shuji Iida; City Official, Koji Shiohama and Citizens Hiroki Omote, Masayoshi Kubo, Kuniko Yoshida and Ayako Tsuji.

“This visit was a great opportunity for both the Japanese and American citizens to gain a valuable global perspective by sharing ideas to strengthen communities, approaches to creating opportunities and to discuss overall best practices,” said Mayor J. Christian Bollwage. “This partnership works so well because both cities are comparable in population and have similar characteristics. It was a great pleasure to welcome our friends and I would like to thank all of those who made this visit possible.”

Throughout their stay, the Japanese were able to tour Elizabeth as well as experience all the municipality has to offer including its rich history, shopping venues and diverse programs. During visits to Kean University, Liberty Hall and the Kean Farm, which is maintained by Groundwork Elizabeth, guests were provided a unique perspective into the history of Elizabethtown along with initiatives associated with the 350th Anniversary. In addition, the Elizabeth Board of Education showcased its culinary program at Edison Academy, as well as its jazz orchestra and language class at Dr. Orlando Edreira Academy School #26.

The group's itinerary included a meeting with Greater Elizabeth Chamber of Commerce President and Chief Executive Officer Gordon Haas, who spoke about business trends and development. Topics of discussion also included Elizabeth’s most exciting retail and entertainment opportunities, which attract countless shoppers each year. During their stay, guests received the five-star treatment at the recently opened Embassy Suites of Elizabeth and The Outlet Collection at Jersey Gardens, which completed an ambitious $30 million renovation in 2013, was enjoyed immensely by the international shoppers.

City-managed programs and services that are necessary and transformative were observed at the Peterstown Community Center, Elizabeth Public Library and Liberty Square Senior Center, where public health nurses and residents interacted with the delegation. The children of the John Jacobson Daycare Center, which is a program of the Greater Union County YMCA, greeted the guests in Japanese and accepted pictures made by the children in Kitami.

With expansion efforts and new technology, Trinitas Regional Medical Center is a leader in innovation as well as preparedness. Employees of Trinitas’ Comprehensive Cancer Center kindly coordinated a tour of their facility as well as engaged visitors in discussion regarding the latest treatment options over lunch.

On Friday October 3, 2014, a 45thAnniversary Celebration was held at the Embassy Suites of Elizabeth, where retired City Health Officer John Surmay, was honored for his commitment to maintaining the sister city relationship. Reverend Robert Higgs of the First Presbyterian Church delivered the keynote address reminding all in attendance of the magnificent history and contributions of Reverend George & Ida Pierson, who traveled to Kitami, Japan, in an effort to help rebuild the city. In commemoration of this event, the Union County Board of Chosen Freeholders presented a resolution.

In July 2014, the City of Elizabeth sent two representatives to Kitami, Japan to participate in a cultural exchange and honor the sister city relationship with the citizens in Japan. The City of Elizabeth is grateful to the many businesses, non-profits, citizens and city officials for their participation and gracious welcoming of our guests.

“Sister Cities establish important connections, which enable municipalities to broaden horizons through relaying experiences in an effort to improve the quality of life within their respective communities,” said Director Krishna Garlic. “The City of Elizabeth looks forward to its continued relationship with the City of Kitami.”

For more information on this visit, please contact Krishna Garlic, the Director of Health and Human Services at 908-820-4049.