Four panels representing the four sister cities are placed at Bellevue Crossroads Spray Park. Courtesy Photo

Four panels representing the four sister cities are placed at Bellevue Crossroads Spray Park. Courtesy Photo

Bellevue celebrates 50th sister city anniversary with Yao, Japan

The Bellevue Sister Cities Association will welcome a delegation from Yao, Japan this November.

For half a century, the city of Bellevue has built and maintained a sister city relationship with Yao, Japan. Now on the 50th anniversary, the Bellevue Sister Cities Association is planning to welcome a delegation from Yao this fall.

Since the inception of the Bellevue Sister Cities Association (BSCA), the city has built connections with four cities from around the world. In addition to Yao, Bellevue also works with Hualien in Taiwan, Kladno in the Czech Republic, and Liepaja in Latvia.

Dan Glatz, board member on the BSCA, explained that the nonprofit organization works with the city of Bellevue to maintain and operate the sister cities program. For Bellevue, he said, the relationship with Yao began in the 1960s. In 1963, representatives from each city met at an international chamber of commerce convention, and in 1969, the BSCA was established and Yao became the official sister city of Bellevue.

The Yao Japanese Garden at Kelsey Creek Park was built in 1971 as to honor the newly founded relationship. In 1992, the garden was moved to the Bellevue Botanical Garden.

Beginning in 1977, Bellevue began an annual student exchange program, allowing four Bellevue students to travel to Japan during the summer and welcoming a Japanese student to Washington state. This program has been the foundation of much of the sister city activity over the years.

Glatz said students have been able to keep in touch with their host families for decades, and longtime bonds have formed across the world due to their exchange program. In 2019, former Bellevue student Heather Houston Church returned to Kladno to meet up with Jana Lorencová, a good friend she made during her exchange in 1997.

“That’s exactly why we do it, to create those cultural exchanges, friendships, and open mindedness to other cultures,” Glatz said. “Jana and Heather are typical of the stories of people who have met, stayed in touch and were lucky enough to see each other again.”

The other marquee activity of the BSCA are the delegation exchanges, in which an elected official and citizens travel to a sister city to meet with other city representatives every two or three years. With 2019 being the 50th anniversary of the city’s relationship with Yao, a 10-person delegation from Japan will be visiting this November.

Planning has already begun with BSCA board members meeting to create an itinerary of events for the delegation to experience. The BSCA plans to take the delegation to Bellevue High School, as it is the only high school in the school district with a Japanese program. They also plan on visiting Atago USA, a Japanese company operating out of Bellevue.

The delegation will also participate in a tree planting event to commemorate the 50th anniversary.

Glatz himself has spent much of his life outside the United States. He and his family moved to Bellevue two years ago after spending the previous 15 years in Japan when he was on active military duty. Learning about other cultures and understanding people from all over the world is an experience he hopes to continue spreading through the BSCA.

This year, three students will take part in the exchange by traveling to both Yao and Kladno.

For more information on the BSCA and how residents can get involved in the group, visit www.bellevuesistercities.org.


In consideration of how we voice our opinions in the modern world, we’ve closed comments on our websites. We value the opinions of our readers and we encourage you to keep the conversation going.

Please feel free to share your story tips by emailing editor@bellevuereporter.com.

To share your opinion for publication, submit a letter through our website https://www.bellevuereporter.com/submit-letter/. Include your name, address and daytime phone number. (We’ll only publish your name and hometown.) We reserve the right to edit letters, but if you keep yours to 300 words or less, we won’t ask you to shorten it.

Heather Houston Church (left) and Jana Lorencová meet again in 2019 after first becoming friends during Church’s 1997 exchange to Kladno in the Czech Republic. Courtesy Photo

Heather Houston Church (left) and Jana Lorencová meet again in 2019 after first becoming friends during Church’s 1997 exchange to Kladno in the Czech Republic. Courtesy Photo

More in News

Carpenters union members peacefully strike on Sept. 16 in downtown Bellevue (photo by Cameron Sheppard)
Carpenters union strike on pause after “illegal picketing activity”

Union spokesperson claims wildcat protestors harrassed and threatened violence.

t
Peter Rogoff to step down as Sound Transit CEO in 2022

Became CEO in 2016; search for replacement to begin

File photo/Sound Publishing
Ban on single-use plastic bags in WA begins Oct. 1

Shoppers will have the choice to pay for a reusable plastic or recycled paper bag.

Photos from Emma Artz Instagram page at https://www.instagram.com/emma__artz/?hl=en
Juanita HS student is one of the best downhill mountain bike racers in the world

Emma Artz represented the US in one of the most difficult bike races, placing in top-15.

file photo
Housing and finance insiders call for subsidized housing families can own, instead of rent

Advocates say increasing homeownership will strengthen the community, build intergenerational wealth

Screenshot taken from Rosa Parks Elementary School website.
Eastside school wins National Blue Ribbon honor

Rosa Parks Elementary School in Redmond is the only Washington school to win.

Screenshot taken of a King County video showing Wilburton Trestle
King County’s Eastside to receive major multi-modal transportation investment

Private and public investors will help build a regional biking and walking trail to mitigate traffic

Co-owners Sarah Cassidy and Luke Woodward stand in front of The Grange (photo by Cameron Sheppard)
Co-owners Sarah Cassidy and Luke Woodward stand in front of The Grange (photo by Cameron Sheppard)
How a King County restaurant and farm work together to make a true farm-to-table experience

The Grange prepares sustainably produced meals pulled from the soil of the Snoqualmie Valley.

Most Read