About 800 Lodi residents stood up when the Yamanashi International Exchange Band played “Kimigayo,” the Japanese national anthem, on Monday evening at Hutchins Street Square.
The concert marked the final event in a three-day celebration of the 50th Sister City anniversary between Lodi and Kofu, Japan.
On Monday, Kofu’s mayor and four other guests walked through City Hall with Lodi Mayor Bob Johnson, visited the police and fire stations, strolled through Downtown, ate at Lodi Beer Company, toured Lustre-Cal Nameplate Corporation and ate dinner at Yume Japanese restaurant.
“More than anything we’ve been to or seen, the most important thing we have done is meet Mayor Johnson and the people of Lodi. We hope to continue the relationship between the two cities and strengthen it,” Kofu Mayor Masanobu Miyajima said through interpreter Jonathan Durham.
Johnson and Miyajima celebrated the trip with sake at dinner before going to the concert where they signed declarations for the 50th anniversary.
During the trip, Johnson said he learned the cities have a lot in common. For example, Kofu, a city with a population of 200,000, is also struggling with a lack of money for city services.
“We sit here and say Lodi is an established community, but Kofu was here since 1517. These guys have a ton more experience,” he said.
Miyajima also agreed that Kofu and Lodi have much in common, especially the wine business. Kofu produces mainly Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, using the koshu grape, which is native to the area, Durham said.
“When the mayor thinks about his house in Kofu, it is surrounded by grapevines, and then we look out our hotel room and see grapevines. We have differences, but as people we have a lot more in common then we think,” Miyajima said through Durham.
The group toured Lustre-Cal to learn more about how the company produces wine labels.
During the tour, Miyajima touched the gold embossed St. Jorge Winery labels while president Joseph Hohenrieder explained the process. The company started printing wine labels in 2008, and a majority of their customers are from the area, Hohenrieder said.
The visit provided another opportunity to promote Lodi wine, he said.
“They are one of the few areas in Japan that make wine, and there are a number of wineries in Lodi that are trying to expand overseas,” he said.
Yume’s chef, Masayuki Hattori, was also excited to cook for the Japanese guests, especially because he studied in Yamanashi Prefecture, where Kofu is located, about 13 years ago.
“I’m trying to make my best for them,” Hattori said.
Hattori wrote the menu in Japanese, and planned several traditional dishes like sea urchin, miyagi oysters and sashimi.
But Hattori also wanted to expose his guests to California fare, like rainbow and spider rolls, because they do not have them in Japan.
“Since they are here in the U.S., I’d like them to try them. I don’t know if they will like it,” he said.
The mayor of Kofu also found out about a surprise connection at the restaurant. Stockton resident Kazuko Hirayama Howell is the cousin of a notable artist in Kofu, who is friends with the mayor and created the welcome gift Miyajima gave to Lodi.
Howell’s cousin, Michihito Kono, is known as a “living master” in Japan for his artwork. The statue he made includes a king fisher, the city’s official bird, with ruby eyes and a onyx beak. It is perched on a rock made out of crystal, and there are grapes under its feed made from amethyst with green quartz leaves.
The jewelry and crystal represents a major industry in Kofu, Durham said. The grapes represent one of the main connections between Lodi and Kofu.
“The meaning is to not only celebrate the last 50 years, but to watch over the future,” he said.
Johnson agreed it is important to continue strengthening the relationships with Kofu.
“We’ve now rekindled a relationship that has been there for 50 years, but been kind of dormant,” he said.
Johnson already has picked up at least one tip from Kofu’s mayor. As they entered Carnegie Forum, Miyajima ran to the dais, grabbed the gavel and hit it three or four times.
“He said, ‘No complaints.’ I need to emulate his style,” Johnson said.