The city of Cambridge celebrated 30 years of friendship and cultural exchange with visitors from Yuasa, Japan, at its sister city dinner Aug. 24.
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Yuasa is notable for being the birthplace of soy sauce. Soy sauce was discovered as a by-product of the production of Kinzanji miso, according to an informational booklet on Yuasa given by the Japanese visitors to their Minnesotan hosts. Miso is a paste made from fermented soybeans, which is a popular food and seasoning in Japan. Kinzanji miso, a variety of miso typically eaten on its own over rice, is another major product of Yuasa.
Yuasa is also located along a Kumano Pilgrimage route. These routes are named fro the Kumano mountains, and they carry travelers between major Shinto shrines.
Speakers during the sister city dinner included Cambridge Mayor Marlys Palmer; Yuasa Town Council Chairperson Chikako Ishibashi; president of the Yuasa International Cultural Exchange Society and representative for the Arida South Rotary Club Keiichi Kurano; Cambridge and Isanti Rotary Club President Howard Lewis; and Sister City Committee Chairperson James Dehn.
Kurano shared a greeting from Yuasa mayor Ueyama AkiraYoshi, who was unable to be present at the dinner due to a scheduling conflict. Later Kurano and Lewis exchanged the banners of their respective Rotary Clubs.
Each city presented the other with a gift. Cambridge’s gift to Yuasa was a teapot handmade by Larry Ostrom. Ostrom said the teapot was inspired by the idea that most of the time when people get to know one another they tend to do so over coffee or tea, which transcend many cultural differences.
Yuasa’s gift to Cambridge was a Japanese painting in a traditional style.
Kimiko Hirahata, a member of the group from Yuasa, also led the audience, Japanese and American alike, in a rendition of the folk song “Sakura, Sakura” (“Cherry Blossoms”), which has lyrics in relatively simple Japanese.
Before giving his closing greeting, Dehn invited Della Theis, wife of the late Bob Theis, who was instrumental in starting the sister city program in 1986, up to the podium to share a few words.
Theis shared the story of how her husband was inspired by visiting Japan and absorbing its culture. He would tell his children, when they would visit the country, to “come back a little more Japanese,” Theis said. The Theises’ daughter, Anne, eventually met and married a Japanese man, Hiro Watanabe, who served as translator for both Japanese and American speakers throughout the evening. One of Theis’ grandchildren was in attendance. “From my heart, I thank you for my family,” she said.