On Mar. 29 The Rohnert Park Sister Cities Relations Committee hosted a reception to honor the two young ambassadors from its sister city, Hashimoto, Japan. Mayor Gina Belforte presented the two students, Shota Gushima and Koko Kuraito, with a certificate of recognition as well as a few gifts from the City of Rohnert Park. In return, the students presented Belforte with a letter from their own mayor, Yoshiyuki Kinoshita, as well as some textile gifts – a big industry in their hometown.
“All of our countries around the world have had conflicts at so many different times,” said Gina Belforte, Mayor of Rohnert Park. “It’s programs like these where we get to know people for who they are and for the future they hold because this is the future of the world – these two right here. When we can have people come into our borders and they can learn about us, and we can learn about them, it does so much to promote world peace. Forever Rohnert Park will be in their heart and they will be in our hearts as well.”
The two students, who are considered high school freshmen in Japan (equivalent to a U.S. sophomore) gave a presentation about Hashimoto, including its cultural heritage, its townscape, and the main products they produce which are textiles using pile weave and kushu-hera-zao, handmade bamboo fishing poles. Afterwards Koko presented some of her calligraphy work and the audience asked questions, which primarily revolved around some of the differences between school in Japan and the United States.
Part of the reception also included Sachiko Knappman explaining, and then demonstrating, a traditional Japanese tea ceremony.
“The tea ceremony developed during the 1500s in Japan, which was in the midst of our civil war period in Japan which lasted about 200 years,” explained Knappman. “Some people were born and died during the war period. It was a very hard time of Japanese history. It’s interesting to see that this is a spiritual practice. It helps us go inside and go deeper and find out who we really are. There is limited conversation between host and guest, which helps us connect on an energy level instead of using language.”
Every turn of the cup, every fold of the napkin, every movement throughout the whole ceremony is done with purpose, reflection and focus.
“When you have a meticulous way of doing something,” said Knappman, “you forget about what else you have to do. It helps us focus.”
Knappman discussed how people can do this in their own lives, everyday, even without a traditional tea ceremony.
“I tell people, even if you do a mundane thing like making coffee, rather than doing it fast, slow down,” said Knappman. “Take twice as long as you normally take and pay attention to each movement that you do, that also helps. Even folding laundry, paying attention to each fold, you’ll have a different experience.”
The purpose of the Rohnert Park Sister Cities Relations Committee is to foster international understanding and friendship through exchanges of people, artifacts, and ideas with citizens of foreign cities, and to develop an increased appreciation of cultural diversity in order to better understand one’s own culture. Rohnert Park became Hashimoto’s sister city in 1983. Currently the board members of the committee are Shari Lorenz, Sachiko Knappman, Olga Senyk, Gay Deady and Cyrel Tramel, who acts as Chairman of the group.
“The City of Rohnert Park funds this right now and the mayor just informed me that we have some grants we can apply for which would increase it from sending one to maybe three students,” said Tramel. “We’re trying to expand the program to what it once was. The student applicants need to be a Rohnert Park resident, 15 to 18 years old. We do an interview with them and the committee works to choose the best candidate.”
To get involved in the Rohnert Park Sister Cities Relations Committee, interested participants are invited to attend one of their monthly meetings, held the second Thurs. of each month at 4 p.m. at the Rohnert Park Community Center.