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Kofu delegation seeing best Lodi has to offer

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Posted: Sunday, August 14, 2011 6:58 pm | Updated: 10:33 am, Wed Aug 17, 2011.

How would you like to be on a city council with 32 people making decisions in your city?

That's the way it's done in Kofu, Japan, which is one of Lodi's two sister cities. That caused six visitors from Kofu to be quite surprised to learn that Lodi is governed by a five-member city council, compared to Kofu's 32-member city council. And that doesn't count their mayor.

To celebrate the 50th anniversary of Lodi's and Kofu's relationship as sister cities, Mayor Masanobu Miyajima and five other Kofu representatives are winding up their three-day visit to Lodi today with a full day of activities.

"Lodi is a beautiful city," Miyajima said on Sunday after the Kofu delegation completed a fishing expedition in the Mokelumne River from the backyard of Dean and Jody Shibler on Edgewood Drive. "The people are friendly."

Miyajima was the star attraction on Saturday, when he threw the ceremonial first pitch at Kofu Park — named after Lodi's sister city. The occasion was a Japanese-American Civic League baseball game, where Lodi competed against a team from San Francisco.

The Rev. Katsuya Katsuryu Kusunoki, minister of the Buddhist Church of Lodi, is a catcher for the Lodi team. He caught the ceremonial first pitch, but the mayor was a little upset with his delivery.

"He was disappointed that if he had another two feet, it would have been right over the plate," Miyajima said through interpreter Jonathan Durham, who works for Kofu, a city of 200,000 near Mt. Fuji.

Other guests from Kofu were Tamotsu Simizu, chairman of the city assembly; Kazuo Tanaka, secretary general of the City Council; Masayuki Shindo, chief of staff; and Mikio Yokouchi, another chief of staff.

City council members and their chiefs of staff represent certain portions, or districts, with Kofu, Durham explained. The mayor's seat is somewhat like a chief executive, as a major city would have.

In a "mayor's welcome" posted online, Miyajima described Kofu as a city "surrounded by natural beauty, (with) holy Mt. Fuji to the south, the Yatsugatake mountain ranges and Mt. Kinpu to the north and the South Japan Alps to the west."

Miyajima also says on his online posting that Kofu has the most beautiful Japanese gorge, spas, Koshu grapes, wine and fine crystal.

In addition to attending the baseball game at Kofu Park on Saturday, the delegation enjoyed a dinner hosted by the Lodi Sister City Committee at Frank Gayaldo's ranch on East Kettleman Lane.

Sunday was an action-packed day, including fishing in the morning, lunch and a winery tour at Phillips Farms, and an anniversary dinner with gifts at Hutchins Street Square.

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