In early January, 2015, Japanese tire manufacturer Bridgestone broke ground in downtown Nashville on its new North American headquarters. Once the facility is completed in 2017, over 1,700 people will be employed at the facility. Though this is the newest bond between the Music City and Japan, it is far from the first.
Nashville and Kamakura in Kanagawa Prefecture became official sister cities in late September 2014, after years of cultural and musical exchange. Prior to this new agreement, the Mayor of Nashville established a Cherry Blossom Festival in 2009 to strengthen ties between Japan and Tennessee. Nashville hopes to plant 100 cherry trees during the first ten years of the Cherry Blossom Festival in order to reach its goal of 1,000 cherry trees planted, to join the growing list of cities around the US that celebrate relations with Japan with similar festivities.
Joining Kamakura in connecting with Nashville is Australia’s country music capital, Tamworth, New South Wales. Tamworth has a burgeoning reputation as Australia’s own “Music City,” making this partnership an ideal match. In January, 2015, Nashville Mayor Karl Dean led an eight person delegation to Tamworth’s annual Country Music Festival. One goal of the partnership is to see more Australian and American musical artists working together. Australian singer Keith Urban is one of the bigger names in the American country music scene at the moment, while Australian actress Clare Bowen stars and sings on the popular ABC television series “Nashville.”
The city’s first sister relationship with Asia was initiated in 2007 with Taiyuan, Shanxi Province in China, and it is also currently exploring a relationship with Gwangjin-gu, a district of Seoul, South Korea. Cities across Tennessee enjoy a total of 11 sister city connections with Asia, showcasing the strengthening bonds between the Volunteer State and the Asia Pacific region.
Nina Geller is a Research Intern at the East-West Center in Washington and a recent graduate of the Monterey Institute of International Studies.