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Sister-city friends gather in peace; Relationship marks 50th year

About 50 world-minded Buffalo area residents reached out Sunday to an equal number of visitors from Kanazawa, Japan, in a cultural, educational, artistic and social exchange.

The gathering was in observance of 50 years of the "sister city" relationship between Buffalo and Kanazawa.

"People-to-people diplomacy is the primary way to promote peace and to pass it along to a younger generation," Takako Michii told the audience at a reception and dinner in the Saturn Club, 977 Delaware Ave.

"I love people," Michii said. "War is abominable; we have to get rid of it. But it can't be done at the government level, we have to do it people-to-people."

Michii, who grew up in Tokyo and returns to Japan almost every year to visit the booming city of Kanazawa, moved to Buffalo in 1966 and now lives in Amherst. She has been president of the Buffalo-Kanazawa Sister City Committee for the last 20 years.

Among benefits of the sister-city relationship, she said, are the exchange of university students between the two cities, the exchange of exhibits with the Albright-Knox Art Gallery and the Burchfield Penney Art Center, the Japanese people's gift of the Japanese Garden in Buffalo's Delaware Park, increased tourism between the two cities including a visit Sunday to Niagara Falls, and Buffalo's gift of the "Water Buffalo" sculpture for the Sister Cities Garden in Kanazawa.

Buffalo played host in 2007 to a three-day seminar to explore the promotion of business opportunities with Kanazawa. Michii said she could not cite any specific commercial developments from that seminar, "but cultural exchanges are commercial, too, and we have developed valuable insights into international transactions."

Michii, who holds a doctor's degree in educational studies, established the Japanese Study Program at the University at Buffalo. Her husband, Makoto Michii, came here on a Fulbright U.S. Fellowship Grant and he plays the double bass in the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra.

The official "sister city" relationship between Buffalo and Kanazawa was signed Dec. 18, 1962.

A program of music and dance followed Sunday's dinner.

The "sister city" celebration will continue with a visit at 10 a.m. today to the Japanese Garden behind the Buffalo & Erie County Historical Museum in Delaware Park and a masked theater performance at 7 p.m. Tuesday at the UB Center for the Arts.

Kanazawa is Buffalo's first "sister city." In the last half-century, Buffalo has signed "sister city" agreements with about 15 other cities in far-flung locations around the globe.

Kanazawa also has other "sister cities," including Ghent, Belgium; Irkutsk, Siberia; Jeonju, Korea; Nancy, France; Suzhou, China, and Porto Alegre, Brazil.