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Sister cities for 40 years

Although she is not looking forward to the 10-hour plane journey, Elise Lunas is looking forward to her fourth trip to Japan, as part of Oregon City’s Sister City Committee.

by: PHOTO BY ELLEN SPITALERI - An ornate Japanese doll, a gift from sister city Tateshina.Lunas, the committee's chairwoman, and six others will travel to Japan from June 8 to June 23. They will visit Tokyo, Nagoya, Osaka, World Heritage sites Koyasan and Nikko, and several other spots, before ending up in Tateshina, OC’s sister city.

by: PHOTO BY ELLEN SPITALERI - Elise Lunas, chairwoman of the Oregon City Sister City Committee, poses with a stone lantern in the Peace Garden. Once in Tateshina, which is in the prefecture of Nagano, delegates will stay with host families.

“They do such an amazing job of taking care of us. They will hold a dinner, and Oregon City Commissioner Kathy Roth will present a gift from Oregon City, a large photo of Willamette Falls — the same one on the cover of the Trail News,” Lunas said.

The Oregon City Sister City Committee will present the Tateshina Sister City Committee with a gift of a handpainted Native American drum, with a rabbit fur drumstick.

In addition to Roth, other members of the delegation include Lunas’ husband Larry, Beth Werber, secretary of the committee, and her husband Bob, Trevor Holland, and Jessica Stringham.

Stringham, 23, now lives in San Francisco, but when she lived in Oregon City her family hosted students from Tateshina, so she “has fond memories,” Lunas said.

Assistant language teacher

In August, Holland, 26, and a recent Portland State University graduate, will return to Tateshina, where he will be an assistant English-language instructor at the junior high for one year. His connection to the delegation is through his grandmother, Verda Spickelmier, a member of the sister-city committee.

Holland has taken Japanese classes on and off since he was 13, and said because of that he has gained an appreciation for the culture and people of Japan.

“Applying to work as an assistant language teacher has been something I’ve wanted to do for years. I was actually looking for positions to apply for when the opportunity to teach in Tateshina was presented to me. I was thrilled, not only to get the chance to live and teach in Japan, but to do so in a town I have some connection to through the sister-city committee,” he said.

Holland looks forward to meeting his students and hopes he can get them excited about learning English during his stay in Tateshina.

He added, “I feel I have one other important role during my time in Japan and that is as a cultural ambassador of sorts. I feel I have a responsibility to positively represent Oregon City as well as the United States because I know that my actions may have a lasting impact on how our country is viewed by others. It’s my hope that I can represent our country well, in addition to fostering a continued friendship between Oregon City and Tateshina as sister cities.”

Sister cities

Oregon City and Tateshina have been “sisters” since 1974, when prominent Oregon City figure Dr. Glenn Parrott’s son and daughter-in-law were doing missionary work in Japan, Lunas said.

“They met some people from Tateshina, and, at that time, the two cities were about the same size in population, and both were rural and agricultural,” Lunas said.

Since then, Oregon City’s population has grown to more than 32,000, while Tateshina is down to about 8,000, she said.

“Although the two cities have gone different ways, those initial connections have lasted,” Lunas said.

The international sister-city program was established in 1956 by President Dwight Eisenhower to encourage peace among nations. The first delegation from Tateshina visited Oregon City in 1975; an OC delegation visited Japan in 1977, and numerous visits have taken place since then.

In even-numbered years, volunteer families in Oregon City host a delegation of junior high students from Tateshina. This past March eight students and their two chaperones came to visit.

Adults from Tateshina last came to Oregon City in 2004, to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the sister-city charter, and another delegation will come to OC this year for the 40th anniversary celebration, Lunas said.

Cultural exchange

“You really get a world perspective and develop a different view of the world. You also learn about another culture,” from taking part in the sister-city program, Lunas said.

“It is amazing how much you can communicate even if you don’t speak the language. You develop other ways of communicating. It is also amazing how quickly friendships form,” she added.

Luna and her husband became involved with the sister-city program a number of years ago when they hosted delegates from Japan. She is looking forward to seeing the people she has met on previous trips, describing the experience as “old-home week.”

The OC Sister City Committee is always looking for more people to host visitors or to volunteer to work in the Peace Garden, which was built in 1987. The garden, located adjacent to the Pioneer Center, houses a large stone lantern that was a gift from the Tateshina Sister City Committee for the inauguration of the garden. The garden also features an arched wooden entryway, built for the 35th anniversary of the sister-city program.

A glass cabinet at the Pioneer Center houses past gifts from Tateshina, and other gifts from that city are on display at the OC City Hall, Lunas said.

Regular meetings of the sister-city committee take place at 7 p.m. on the second Monday of the month at City Hall; they are open to the public. No meeting will be held in June since many of the members will be in Japan.

For more information, contact Elise Lunas at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. , or call her at 503-656-5578.