The Van Wert County Courthouse

Monday, Feb. 26, 2024

Japanese delegation visits Van Wert

DAVE MOSIER/independent editor

Several Ohio cities that have sister city relationships with Japanese communities were visited Friday by a Japanese delegation that included Consul-General Kuninori Matsuda, who is based in Detroit, and Hiroshi Fukuda, vice president-executive director of the Central Ohio Japanese Association of Commerce — a consortium of Japanese businesses with headquarters in Columbus.

Japanese Consul-General Kuninori Matsuda (right) points to an area on a Japanese map as former Van Wert County commissioner Harold Merkle looks on. (Dave Mosier/Van Wert independent

Also part of the delegation was Tomohiro Iwabuchi, special assistant at the Consulate General’s office in Detroit for public and cultural affairs. Iwabuchi said he would like to have a video and other information about the Van Wert area to send to Sumoto prior to a celebration that city will be having later this year. A promotional video created for economic development purposes was given to Iwabuchi that would provide some information about the city and surrounding county, and Mayor Ehmer said he would work on creating another specifically for the celebration.

Friday’s meeting had a number of purposes, with one of those rejuvenating Van Wert’s sister city relationship with Sumoto, Japan. Doing so was something local officials were very much open to, with Van Wert Mayor Louis Ehmer noting it was nice to have a Japanese delegation in the community after a hiatus of three years.

“We talk on the phone, but the face-to-face contact makes it great to be able to see who you are talking to,” the mayor said. “It was just a very positive visit.”

Ehmer, former county commissioner Harold Merkle and Van Wert City Councilman At-Large Dick Shultz all said they had fond memories of their sister city visits to Goshiki, Japan, Van Wert’s first sister city that merged with Sumoto a few years ago.

Matsuda also expressed his wishes that Ohio communities like Van Wert with Japanese sister cities benefit in more than one way from that relationship, noting that the cultural exchange often leads to business relationships as well.

The consul-general said there are 338 Japanese businesses in Ohio, but that several of the more rural Ohio sister cities like Van Wert are without development from Japan – something he would like to see changed.

With that in mind, Matsuda said he would like to see Fukuda and a delegation of Japanese business people return to Van Wert in the future to tour the city and surrounding area. Mayor Ehmer said he hoped to have Van Wert Economic Development Director Nancy Bowen meet with that delegation. Bowen was in Columbus on Friday and unable to meet with the consul-general’s delegation.

Both of the Japanese officials expressed interest in Van Wert’s 1,600-acre industrial megasite, while Mayor Ehmer and Safety-Service Director Jay Fleming also noted that the city had a number of opportunities for smaller businesses as well.

Matsuda also took the time to thank city officials for the aid sent to Japan in the wake of the recent earthquakes and tsunamis by the Van Wert Ministerial Association.

“We truly appreciate this wonderful gesture made by the local community right after the March 11 earthquake and tsunami,” he noted.

The local efforts to provide aid to Japan were similar to those sent to Van Wert from Goshiki after the November 2002 tornado that ravaged the Van Wert area.

The delegation spent about an hour in Van Wert before driving on to Celina and St. Marys, which both also have sister city relationships with Japanese communities.

A Japanese delegation that includes (from the left) Kuninori Matsuda, Hiroshi Fukuda and Tomohiro Iwabuchi talks with local officials in the conference room of Van Wert City Council Chambers on Friday. (Dave Mosier/Van Wert independent)

POSTED: 04/30/11 at 4:54 am. FILED UNDER: News