We all know what it’s like: a much anticipated visit from family, that for ages seemed to be several flips of the calendar pages in the future, is, quite suddenly, this week! Plans kick into high gear to iron out last minute details, the weather forecast is warily checked with fingers crossed.
So it was at a recent meeting of the Port Hardy Twinning Society whose members are excited to be once again hosting Port Hardy’s “Sister” town of Numata, Japan, from July 17-24.
Port Hardy has a strong relationship with Numata, a small town of about 4000 people from the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido, that goes back nearly 20 years.
Exchange trips between the two “North Island” communities alternate each year. Port Hardy representatives last visited Numata in August 2009, a trip fondly remembered for the generous hospitality of the hosts and a week crammed with local sightseeing.
A highlight was the participation in Numata’s famous “Yotaka Andon Festival”, an event featuring colorfully lit, seven-metre-tall “andons” (lanterns) that are paraded through the streets accompanied by community members dancing, playing flutes and pounding on Taiko drums. Excitement builds at intervals along the routes as two andons line up and crash into each other in a bamboo-splitting duel.
Our Numata “family” most recently visited Port Hardy in July 2010 and were treated to week of Canadian culture, including living with home-stay families, hikes on the west coast beaches, a tour a logging operation, canoeing, pot-lucks and barbecues. Trepidation was overcome as they gamely helped build and paddle in the annual Filomi Days boat building competition.
This year’s delegation will again experience five days of the best that the North Island has to offer, such as a whale-watching trip, a hike along the new Storey’s Beach-to-Hardy Bay “Commuter Trail”, a night of camping in tents at Quatse campground, taking in the Triport Speedway stock car races and, of course, once again marching in the Filomi Days parade and braving the waves of Hardy Bay in a make-shift boat.
The tsunami disaster in March of 2011 precluded Port Hardy’s visit to Japan that year. Thankfully, Numata is well inland from the coast and was not damaged in the earthquake or subsequent tsunami. However, it was felt that it would be inappropriate to expect hospitality mere months after the national emergency. Instead, the Port Hardy Twinning Society organized a “Japan March” and fundraising event with proceeds directed to the Red Cross crisis relief efforts.
Our Japanese guests will be in town until Tuesday, July 24. All are encouraged to greet our visitors with a warm North Island welcome when you see them around town, and to give them a cheer in the parade and boat building competition.
The Port Hardy Twinning Society is always open to new members. Our next turn for the exchange trip will come in the summer of 2013. Contact Leslie at 949-2315 for info.
A travel blog article about the Yotaka Andon Festival can be found at http://charleshamel.com/2010/09/17/numata-yotaka-andon-festival/ and a You Tube video of the “dueling andons” is at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q6kJm1oju50.
English-language travel sites, such as http://en.visit-hokkaido.jp/hokkaido/index.html, provide lots of information about visiting Hokkaido, or better yet, talk to one of the Twinning Society members about their experience.