Campbelltown-Koshigaya friendship is 30 years young

As it was: This old photo from the Advertiser archives shows the Japanese Garden as it looked in the late 1980s.

As it was: This old photo from the Advertiser archives shows the Japanese Garden as it looked in the late 1980s.

Campbelltown's sister-city relationship with Koshigaya was forged at a time when Japan was still a cultural mystery - or a source of controversy - to many. 

As a local delegation prepares to visit Japan to cement the bond, Katherine Fenech spoke to key players.

From little things, big things grow: Campbelltown-Koshigaya Sister Cities Association president David Symonds will travel to Japan in October with other members Diane Symonds, Kimiko Kist, Mick, Colleen, and Daniel Stevens. They are pictured here at the Japanese Garden at Campbelltown's Art Centre, the tea house being a present from our sister-city in the 1980s. Picture: Simon Bennett

From little things, big things grow: Campbelltown-Koshigaya Sister Cities Association president David Symonds will travel to Japan in October with other members Diane Symonds, Kimiko Kist, Mick, Colleen, and Daniel Stevens. They are pictured here at the Japanese Garden at Campbelltown's Art Centre, the tea house being a present from our sister-city in the 1980s. Picture: Simon Bennett

FORMER Campbelltown mayor Bryce Regan remembers his first trip to Koshigaya fondly — but not without a touch of culture shock.

"It was a bit awkward at first because of the differences," Mr Regan recalled this week.

"The Japanese train ride in rush hour is something to experience.

"We got into the carriage and by the time we arrived we were somehow shunted to the other end — you are just physically jammed in, it's unbelievable."

Mr Regan pointed out it was actually the council's elder statesman, Greg Percival, who set the sister-city wheels in motion in 1982 after a visit to Japan.

By 1984, Mr Regan had signed the agreement with Koshigaya mayor Shinichiro Shimamura.

At the time, anti-Japanese sentiment left over from World War II was still lingering among Campbelltown's older generation.

But Mr Percival — as a World War II veteran who had fought the Japanese himself — provided to be the bridge of forgiveness.

Mr Regan's uncle had also been a prisoner of war.

"The whole idea was to promote the youth side of it more than anything else," Mr Regan said.

"We thought it was time to nullify any anti-Japanese sentiment and from what I've seen it's been working very well."

He described his first trip to Koshigaya as one he would not forget.

"I realised how clean they were, people just don't litter like they do here," he said. "We asked a young girl for directions and she told us to go three blocks up.

"We were almost there when we heard this puffing behind us and turned to see her chasing us to tell us that she was so sorry but she'd given us a bum steer and it was actually four blocks up.

"The young people are just so polite and respectful and we hoped that would rub off on our exchange students."

It's a sentiment echoed by the Campbelltown-Koshigaya Sister Cities Association president, David Symonds, who has visited Koshigaya an impressive 17 times.

"My first trip we were picked up by my host family and were driving along quite a narrow street when the car in front of us stopped and the driver got out to go into a shop," Mr Symonds said.

"My host family just waited patiently and the guy eventually got back into the car and drove off.

"That has stuck with me for 20 years.

"They are extremely polite and extra-friendly and they are a very generous sort of people."

During his many visits Mr Symonds has attended festivals and sampled delicacies.

"They have a shopping centre that's at least a kilometre from one end to the other," he said.

■ A delegation from the association will visit Koshigaya in October to host a Campbelltown stall at the annual citizen's festival.

Campbelltown Council's general manager Paul Tosi, mayor Clinton Mead and councillors Rudi Kolkman and Meg Oates will spend four days in Koshigaya next week to celebrate the anniversary.

"It's recognised as one of the best sister-city arrangements in Australia and the 30th anniversary is a big milestone," Mr Tosi said.

"We've been there before and they are always visits we funded ourselves."

A delegation from Koshigaya will visit Campbelltown during the Festival of Fisher's Ghost in November.

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