Montevallo officials celebrate Japanese culture

Published 10:53 pm Wednesday, September 9, 2009

A recent trip to Japan netted Montevallo residents, officials and students with new skills, exotic cuisine and a wealth of knowledge, several of the recent Alabama returnees said during a Wednesday exhibition at the city’s Parnell Memorial Library.

During the event, the travelers, many dressed in Japanese ceremonial garb, shared their stories and displayed pictures of their trip as locals took the opportunity to sample food and drink from the other side of the planet.

The Montevallo delegates visited Echizen, Japan in late May and early June as part of the sister city agreement signed last year between the two cities.

“This was actually our first visit to Echizen since we became sister cities,” said District 4 Councilwoman Hollie Cost, who attended the trip in place of Mayor Ben McCrory. “There are many similarities between our two cities. They have a nice, small-town feel, and are very conscious of the environment.”

Although Echizen has about 80,000 more residents than Montevallo, the trip attendees agreed the Japanese city’s economic climate could serve as a blueprint for Montevallo.

“We made a few business visits while we were there. We saw how a small business could develop into international manufacturing companies,” said University of Montevallo President Philip Williams.

“We have businesses here that could start small and develop into large companies like that as well,” Williams added. “The people there were very hospitable, and we got to see some beautiful places.”

While touring Echizen, the Alabamians visited pottery and paper factories, shrines and several other areas of the western Japanese city.

“That was actually my fifth visit to Japan,” said UM sculpture teacher Ted Metz. “The whole sister city program has been an extremely positive experience for both cities.

“It’s the kind of thing that can change people’s lives forever in ways you may not even know,” Metz added. “It shows you that a lot can be done despite government differences and bureaucracy.”

The program also has benefited Echizen residents as well, McCrory explained.

“I have also gotten great response from the people who have come here from Japan,” McCrory said. “The economic development exchanges we have had have been great, and we have really been enjoying our partnership. “