On August 31, Hawaiʻi Governor David Ige and First Lady Dawn Amano Ige traveled to Hiroshima Prefecture to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the signing of the Sister State Agreement between the two parties. His visit was part of a larger trip to Japan where he was also scheduled to visit Matsuyama City and Ehime Prefecture to meet with Governor Tokihiro Nakamura, Uwajima City, Yamaguchi Prefecture, and Osakikamijima Island. Governor Ige also visited the Museum of Japanese Emigration to Hawaiʻi and laid a wreath at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum. In a gesture of good faith and camaraderie, Governor Ige with Japanese officials established the first Sister-Library Agreement in Hiroshima Prefecture between the Hawaiʻi State Public Library System and Hiroshima Prefecture Library. In addition to furthering the relationship between Hawaiʻi and Hiroshima, the intent of the agreement is to improve literacy and encourage Japanese families to learn about Hawaiʻi’s cultures and customs. Both libraries, through exchanging books primarily written by local authors, hope to fulfill these goals. The first of its kind, it is but one establishment amongst the larger Sister State Agreement between Hawaiʻi and Hiroshima established June 15, 1959.
Sister partnerships between the United States and Japan developed out of the People-to-People Program established by President Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1956. Partnerships established under the program are seen to promote peace, friendship, and international understanding through exchange. Honolulu and Hiroshima, in particular, maintain the spirit of the broader US-Japan sister relationship with roughly 23 sister partnerships. In 1985, Honolulu was presented with the Hiroshima Peace Bel. In 2002, Hiroshima presented Honolulu with a replica of the famous torii gate. Annually, the Mayor of Honolulu attends Japan’s Peace Memorial Ceremony and Hiroshima sends official delegations to celebrate Hawaiʻi’s Honolulu Festival. Since the beginning of this momentous relationship, both Hawaiʻi and Japan have worked to develop programs between the two locations, extending the longevity of their friendship and forming an exchange between the youth of their communities.
In 2017, the Honolulu Japanese Chamber of Commerce, in partnership with the Hiroshima Prefecture Government and the State Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism, created a program on the 20th anniversary of their partnership called the Hawaiʻi-Hiroshima Emerging Young Business Leaders Program. The program has a four-fold mission: to improve leadership competency and commitment, build cross-country relationships that will turn into long-term relationships, learn the impact Japanese culture has on Hawaiʻi, and share Japanese-Hawaiian values. The Young Business Leaders Program and the Sister-Library Agreement demonstrates how in the context of Hawaiʻi-Hiroshima relations, people-to-people connection through education and professional development are used to maintain peaceful relations across borders. Also, fostering the Japanese diaspora that makes up 21.5% (314,102 people) of Hawaiʻi’s total population according to the US Census Bureau’s American Community Survey 2021 estimates.
Japan continues to be an important ally for Hawaiʻi as Governor Ige also visited Yamaguchi Prefecture, during the same trip to Hiroshima, signing the Prefecture’s first sister agreement between Hawaiʻi and Yamaguchi Prefecture. Emphasis on cross-cultural education and literacy is a likely focal point in future sister partnerships between Hawaiʻi and Japanese cities as ties deepen.
Alura Winfrey is a Research Intern at the East-West Center in Washington participating in the Young Professionals Program. She is a third-year undergraduate student attending George Washington University where she is majoring in International Affairs with a regional concentration in Asia.