Sisterly (City) Love

A unique feature of the Coolest Coast, and in particular the city of Manitowoc, is the existence of what is known as a sister city. Oxford dictionaries describe a sister city as “a city that is linked to another, usually for the purposes of cultural exchange.” The definition may appear to be straightforward and simple, but a look into the link between two cities separated by thousands of miles shows the experience to be deeply-rooted in curiosity, respect, and a love for connecting the world, one step at a time.

In 1990, Wisconsin became sister states with the Japanese prefecture of Chiba, due to the location of a Kikkoman Soy Sauce facility in Walworth County, Wisconsin . Beginning in 1992, a search was conducted to find a sister city for Kamogawa, a city located in Chiba. After a search that spread far and wide across the state of Wisconsin, the perfect match was found: Manitowoc!. The city was matched with Kamogawa on the basis of similarities regarding economy, geographic location, population and much more. The two cities were paired, and nobody could have expected just how special the relationship formed would be to both of the cities. Ever since the relationship began, a new culture has formed, allowing access to a different way of life and creating a more culturally-aware atmosphere on the Coolest Coast. 

Elements of the sister city relationship can be found both across the world in Japan, but also right on the shores of Lake Michigan. MIRA (the Manitowoc International Relations Association) was created in 1993 to facilitate opportunities for citizen delegations to visit Kamogawa, but has also found ways to bring little pieces of Japan to Manitowoc County.

Every three to four years, citizen delegates are chosen to visit Kamogawa, with Japanese ambassadors coming to visit Manitowoc afterwards. Students have even more opportunities to explore Kamogawa, with a student exchange travelling nearly every year across the Pacific Ocean. Manitowoc ambassadors are able to stay with host families while they gain access to the sights and scenes of Kamogawa, learning all about the past, present, and future of the city. 

In return, Kamogawa residents are able to visit the Coolest Coast via exchanges put on by the two cities. Manitowoc’s various historical sights and businesses are visited, and both the Wisconsin and Japanese residents have the chance to be a part of a unique experience for both parties.

Locals and visitors to the Coolest Coast don’t need a plane ticket to have a part in the relationship, and are able to experience Kamogawa right here in Manitowoc! 

A visit to the Rahr West Art Museum provides a glimpse into beautiful historical art and modern pieces from Japan and Kamogawa. A trip to West of the Lake Gardens will leave guests in the presence of blooms native to Japan and are meticulously cared for by the garden staff. Japan can also be found spread across the county, from murals to special appearances in public buildings via art and donated gifts from the local government officials of Kamogawa. Visitors and locals of the Coolest Coast can find themselves surround by Kamogawa thanks to the local businesses and organizations that are passionate about Manitowoc’s international relationships.

Gift from Kamogawa Japanese samurai

The sister city relationship between Manitowoc and Kamogawa has created an unreplicable dynamic that promotes a culturally-diverse environment on the Coolest Coast, and has changed the lives of many Manitowoc and Kamogawa residents. Individuals have found themselves living and working in the country opposite where they are from, and individuals who have taken part in exchanges find themselves moved by the opportunity, and ready to go back for more time in Japan or Wisconsin. No matter where you may find yourself, whether it be in Manitowoc examining a piece of art from Japan, or on a plane ride to Japan, the sister city relationship has truly left its mark on the people of the Coolest Coast.

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