Sister city group from Japan has heart-warming trip to Waukegan
By Dan Moran firstname.lastname@example.org September 20, 2013 4:34PM
Keiko Kondo from Miyazaki, Japan, reads a welcome message given to her by second-graders at Andrew Cooke Magnet School in Waukegan during a visit on Wednesday, Sept. 18. | Dan Moran/Sun-Times Media
Updated: November 20, 2013 3:34AM
It doesn’t have a direct translation in English, but Chizuko Iwamura and Keiko Kondo from Miyazaki, Japan, used one word to sum up their visit to Waukegan this week: “Omotenashi.”
“It’s a special word that apparently is very popular right now,” said their interpreter, Zeynep Rena Somersan of Milwaukee. “It has to do with the heart, the graciousness and the hospitality. With the (2020) Olympics coming up, you’ll hear it a lot. I guess a lot of the (Japanese) newscasters are saying it now.”
Speaking through Somersan, Kondo added “mark my words — ‘omotenashi’ is coming.”
In this case, Kondo and Iwamura used the phrase to describe the hospitality they experienced throughout Waukegan — Miyazaki’s sister city — during a three-day visit that included back-to-back stops on Wednesday, Sept. 18, at Waukegan High School and Andrew Cooke Magnet School.
The visit by the Japanese delegation, which also included Miyazaki Vice-Mayor Kazutoshi Abumi, was the first since at least 2007 in a sister-city exchange program that dates back 23 years. Initially, Waukegan’s Japanese sister city was Kiyotake, but it was absorbed by Miyazaki in the last decade.
After an arrival on Monday that was delayed by Typhoon Man-Yi, the delegation spent Tuesday visiting such sites as the Waukegan Public Library, Waukegan Harbor, the Genesee Theatre and the Waukegan Park District’s SportsPark.
On Tuesday evening, after a reception at the home of Mayor Wayne Motley, the visitors were treated to a pot-luck dinner at Green Town Tavern with American culinary selections like fried chicken, ribs and other specialities from area restaurants.
On Wednesday, lunch was at Taqueri Toluca on 10th Street, and their stop at the high school included a demonstration by the Jr. ROTC Bulldog Regiment’s drill team. With Abumi leaving town to attend to other business in the U.S., Kondo and Iwamura were welcomed at Cooke Magnet by fifth-grade students playing “La Bamba” on violins and second-grade students presenting them with haikus about the arrival of autumn.
Kondo, a former councilwoman in Kiotake, has visited Waukegan four times previously, and Iwamura was making her second visit. Following their tour, the women sat down for apple pie and were asked what they will tell their friends back home about Waukegan in 2013.
Through Somersan, Kondo said she would “really like to explain how interested the children looked (in) the school system, how they’re all really trying hard at what they’re doing and how excited the kids looked.”
“The people’s hearts and feelings are the same — warm hearts,” Kondo added when comparing Waukegan and Miyazaki. “The way the hospitality is extended is similar, and the friendliness.”
Though the sister-city visits have been impacted by the recession and Kiyotake’s absorption, Motley said Monday that he hopes to pay a return visit in May for Miyazaki’s 90th birthday celebration. He added that, with city travel expenses frozen, he plans to take the trip as a vacation and fund it out of his own pocket.