In 1961, the Honorable Mayor Horiuchi of Fuji-Yoshida, Japan, penned a letter to Colorado Springs dignitaries proposing an affiliation between the two cities. Goro Izumi, English teacher at Ohotsuki municipal college in Fuji helped establish the initial “sister city” pact.
In February of 1962 it became official: Colorado Springs Mayor William C. Henderson passed a City Resolution adopting the relationship. Fuji-Yoshida sends an official resolution adopting the relationship, hand penned on a scroll. It read “It is our pleasure to adopt Colorado Springs, USA, as the ‘Sister City’ of Fuji-Yoshia, Japan. We sincerely hope that this affiliation will develop our cultural and economic exchanges and that thru the understanding and friendship of the citizens of both cities we can ultimately contribute to the world peace.” Colorado Springs and Fujiyoshida also each had a population of about 35,000 when they formed their relationship in 1962.
In 1962, Winifred G. McBroom of the El Paso County Assessors Office and a member of Zonta was the first official guest to Fujiyoshida on behalf of Colorado Springs. Fhe following year, Dr. Takanobu Furukoshi, the first official visitor form Fujiyoshida, arrived to Colorado Springs. Numerous ceremonies and an exchange of gifts took place during his visit, with items representing the different cultures changing hands, inlcuding Dr. Furukoshi presenting a Japanese national flag to the City of Colorado Springs. Many such exchanges have taken place over the last 50 years.
Colorado Springs Parks and Recreation installed two gardens in honor of the Sister City relationship in the early 1960s. With the assistance of the Colorado Springs Rotary Club, a colorful authentic Japanese garden was constructed on Nevada Avenue between Platte and Bijou, along with a Japanese Torii (a Shinto shrine gate). 1988, the Torii arch was moved to Monument Valley Park to celebrate the arch's 25th anniversary and to make it more accessible to the public. It was restored to its original site in 2001.
Correspondence & Gifts
Fujiyoshida Mayor Watanabe sent holiday gifts to Colorado Springs in 1963, the first of many gift exchanges to follow. One year, when Fujiyoshida was planning its annual festival, officials were asked to send Colorado items for display. They sent bolo ties, gold aspen-leaf jewelry, aspen-wood turnings, and forget-me-nots sealed in plastic, among other items. The Colorado offerings were a hit at the festival. Gifts from Fujiyoshida, many of which can be seen at Colorado Springs City Hall, have included dolls, textiles, carvings, works of art, clothing and things that represent the Japanese culture.
Beginning in 1963, a pen-pal program started with middle and high school students, as well as curriculum exchanges and an art excange program at Harrison High School. Palmer and Wasson High Schools initiate sister school programs, following Harrison’s lead. Today, Rampart High School is still very active in the program, maintaining the downtown torii gate and garden, hosting and sending exchange students, and communicating with graduates of the program. Rampart graduate Patrick Harlan is a household name in Japan, where he is a comedian and late-night television host. Each summer, a group of junior high school students from Japan visit Colorado Springs.
A delegation from Colorado Springs Diversity Forum attended the Fujiyoshida Yoshida Fire Festival in August 2011 to prepare for the 2012 Colorado Springs Fire Festival. Many exchanges and activities will take place in 2012 leading up to the festival. Check back often for more updates!