Indiana Sister Cities: Fort Wayne, Indiana & Takaoka, Japan
1977 was a year of firsts for Fort Wayne, Indiana, and Takaoka, Toyama in Japan: it marked the establishment of Fort Wayne’s first sister city and Takaoka’s first sister city in America. Since then, this sister city relationship has lasted for 43 years and is symbolic of strengthening U.S. and East Asian international affairs. This sister alliance has facilitated cultural exchange trips between both cities, inviting government officials, teachers, students, etc. to unite over cultural similarities and learn more about cultural differences.
Fort Wayne and Takaoka:
|Fort Wayne, Indiana
About Takaoka, Japan:
Takaoka is a city located in the northwestern part of the Toyama Prefecture in Japan (around 5 hours and 30 minutes northwest of Tokyo). Toyama Prefecture is situated in the Chubu region, which is right in the middle of Honshu, the largest and most populous island of Japan. It is renowned for its industrial activities on the Japan Sea coast and as such, Takaoka is known as a hub for metal casting and the manufacturing of metal. In terms of its geography, Takaoka is surrounded by mountains and interweaved with the Shogawa River and the Oyabegawa River.
Takaoka’s roster of sister cities includes not only Fort Wayne but also Mirandópolis, Brazil. It also maintains friendly relations with Jinzhou and Liaoyang (both based in China), as both metropolitan areas are friendship cities with Takaoka.
The city was first established in 701 in the Etchū Province and was originally named Sekino but in 1609, it was renamed to Takaoka by samurai Maeda Toshinaga, as it came from a religious verse in the poem Shihen. Takaoka’s history is closely intertwined with that of the now-demolished Takaoka Castle, and it is believed to be named after the palace, given that Taka (高) means “high” and Oka (岡) means “hill.”
Takaoka Castle was demolished because of the “one domain, one castle” law implemented during the Tokugawa shogunate. To makeup for this loss, Maeda Toshitsune (the new head of the Maeda clan) spearheaded policies to develop Takaoka into a major business center. These plans included constructing warehouses at the castle premises to store rice and salt (core ingredients used in Japanese cuisine) and directing all trade to pass through the Fushiki port. At the same time, local artisans were honing their craft and specializing in producing ironware, copperware, etc. As a result, the combination of industrial activities and the thriving arts scene contributed to the growth of Takaoka.
Due to its metalworking traditions, today, Takaoka is Japan’s biggest producer of copperware. Its coppersmiths manufacture 95% of all copper products in Japan and utilize the metal to design ornaments, Buddhist statues, temple bells, etc. Other key industries in Takaoka include cotton, textiles, and wagashi (和菓子), better known as traditional Japanese confectionery.
Takaoka – Fort Wayne Connection:
The similarities that Fort Wayne and Takaoka share (like population size and rich history), as well as their differences (like demographic makeup and language) both combine to form a positive, diplomatic relationship designed to facilitate cultural, economic, and educational exchanges between both cities. This sister alliance is emphasized to not only dignitaries (like the mayors of both cities) but also to children, as four high schools in Fort Wayne offer exchange programs with high schools located in Takaoka. As a result of programs like these, cultural exposure for the youth of Fort Wayne is bound to instill in them a greater sense of cultural and linguistic diversities – a trait that will equip them to become global citizens and thus, leaders of their community and beyond.
The sister alliance with Takaoka, Fort Wayne’s first sister city, is instrumental in exposing the residents of Fort Wayne to Japanese culture. The Japanese American Association of Indiana (JAAI) serves to promote and share all aspects related to Japan in Fort Wayne and its surrounding areas in Northeast Indiana. The establishment of this organization is one of the many factors that propelled Fort Wayne to become a flourishing and more globally minded city. Thanks to this sister-city relationship, both Fort Wayne and Takaoka have a stronger sense of cultural understanding and mutual respect.