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Toyama, Japan



Head of Government:



Main Industriesmanufacturing, including pharmaceuticals, semiconductors and electronics, similar to Durham,

as well as traditional blown glass and clay doll arts and a

special trout sushi and pear wine made only in Toyama

Relationship Established


Additional Resources:


Toyama, Japan

Toyama means "rich with mountains" and the Tateyama Mountain Range is stunning there. Toyama is a modern, urban, densely populated community with a focus on compact development, conservation of natural resources and an appreciation of nature. The people are courteous and kind.   The climate is similar to Durham's, but they seem to get more snow!

Durham is the only City in NC with a Japanese Sister City. Our relationship is built upon interests in medicine, research and manufacturing and took about 4 years to come to fruition.

Research to find the perfect Japanese city to become a sister to began in earnest in 1986 with a Duke University History Professor named Dr. Harold Parker, a member of the Japan Committee of SCD. Over time, he found several candidates and pursued at least one other before Toyama, working through the Project Manager for Japan Affiliations at Sister Cities International, only to learn that we were too late and that particular city opted for a Sister City relationship in Texas. In 1987, SCI responded to an inquiry from Dr. Parker about Toyama, the Project Manager saying she thought that, due to a recommendation from the City of San Antonio and the "pre-eminence of the city on the western coast" it would make a strong candidate for the Research Triangle area. The Japan Committee then contacted Mayor Wib Gulley, and Mayor Gulley contacted Mayor Masahashi in Toyama, inviting Toyama to become a Sister City and to visit Durham.

An agreement was drafted in early 1989. It was approved by the City Council in March. Next, the City of Toyama invited Durham public officials to attend an official signing ceremony in Toyama in early June, to coincide with the week of its Centennial celebration.
Determining who would be part of the delegation was challenging, because the newly named Toyama committee was interested in community representation, but Toyama was interested in having as many elected officials attend as possible. Seven elected officials and six Committee members plus an interpreter traveled to Toyama for the signing ceremony. The committee realized as soon as they arrived that the presence of the elected officials was the key element in the success of the visit!

Toyoma Accomplishments:

- The Ikebana and Calligraphy Exhibition in 1995, sponsored by a Toyama newspaper and held at the Durham Convention Center;

-The Fundraising, Design, Construction and Dedication of the Durham Toyama Sister Cities Japanese Pavilion in Duke Gardens with Duke University(2007). The pavilion is used as an educational space to celebrate and learn about the art of tea ceremony;

- The Toyama College of Foreign Languages ESL Student Exchange (ongoing annually 2013 through 2020, virtual 2022 and 2023, and in person again in 2024). TCFL is a public school, receiving funding from the City of Toyama. In their past visits, they have interacted with students from DTCC, Central Park School for Children and the City of Durham Youth Council;

- Reciprocal visits by students from various Durham High Schools to TCFL in the summers of 2016 and 2019; - Earlier exchanges by students from Durham middle schools and the Durham Children's Choir.



- The highlight was when members of the Toyama Enthusiasts travelled to Toyama on a reciprocal exchange in September at the invitation of the College of Foreign Languages, to see the school, meet the students, take in the beautiful sights of Toyama City and prefecture and spend quality time with our TCFL and host families-it was a heartwarming experience! Earlier in the year, we enjoyed a virtual exchange with the school as they spent a week practicing their English with teachers at Durham Technical Community College and virtual "host families".

- We held a "Kite Festival" on March 1 at Holton Career and Resource Center, featuring hand made kites from Japan, and opportunities for kids to fly kites with their families. We also supported the Sister Cities International Summer Meeting held in Durham in July, with a presentation about the joint Toyama Enthusiasts/Duke Gardens Tea Pavilion project, a presentation about the history of our Sister City relationship, and performances by a Kendo group from UNC-Chapel Hill and the Triangle Taiko drummers. Over the years, there have been many exchanges with physicians, educators, business representatives plant professionals, artisans of various kinds, civic club members, musicians, dancers, Middle and High School students and Government Officials-an estimated total of 50 inbound and 38 outbound exchanges.


2024 Activities:

- February 23-March 13: 15 students from the Toyama College of Foreign Languages will visit Durham, staying with host families, learning about American culture, interacting with community and studying English in the ESL program at DTCCs Center for the Global Learner. While the TCFL students are here, we are planning to participate in the Peace Cranes project of the City of Durham, England with a Durham school.

- The Toyama Enthusiasts will be looking for a way to celebrate 35 years of our Sister Cities relationship, and will encourage participation in the upcoming Sister Cities International Youth Leadership Summit this summer in Washington, DC and the Sister Cities International Japan Summit in 2025.


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