Gotemba: Chambersburg’s Sister City
Unknown by many people, Gotemba, Japan, near Mt. Fuji, is the sister city of Chambersburg. On March 23, the Chambersburg Coyle Library hosted a Japanese cultural day to showcase Japanese culture and promote this relationship through a number of family-friendly and engaging activities.
This bond with our sister city has existed since 1960 when the late Tsunako Negami, Wilson ’32, attempted to reconcile American and Japanese relationships after the war. The first formal visit was in 1980, when five Chambersburg residents went to Gotemba to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the chartering of Gotemba and the 20th of the sister-city relationship. Since then, Gotemba residents visit Chambersburg every ten years, years that end in fives, and Chambersburg residents journey to Japan in years ending in zero. There have been thirteen students from Gotemba that have spent time studying at Wilson College.
Gotemba is a highland city based at the foot of Mt. Fuji in the center of Japan. Gotemba is developing into an important part of the Tokyo and Yokohama metropolitan business areas based on its geographical location, tourism, and rising population that currently sits at 84,000. This town is known for its sports, particularly hiking, with a number of historical spots surrounded by nature and scenery that changes with the seasons. Furthermore, Gotemba is known for local products and cuisine such as wasabi, green tea, and liquor. These products are enjoyed at various festivals throughout the year including the Cherry Blossom Festival in spring and the Mt. Fuji Drum Festival in the summer.
The event at the Coyle Library was very interactive, informational and welcoming, reflecting the culture of Japan. Dean of Students Mary Beth Williams, who also opened the event and Director of International Scholar Services, Crystal Lantz, both attended and remarked that it was a really well attended event for the whole community to enjoy. The entrance on the ground floor was where people were welcomed and given a card to carry with them to all activities where you would receive stamps for participation. At the end of the day, if your card had been stamped for all stations, then you could go into a draw to win a prize. The ground floor also had a large calligraphy style sheet where people could leave their hand prints and receive some information about the day.
On the ground floor, there were other activities including Japanese calligraphy and Origami. Japanese calligraphy is an elaborate Japanese art form where professionals could write your name or you could even give it a try. Origami also provided a variety of difficulties giving people the chance to show their expertise or allow beginners to create something, ranging from the simple dog face to an elegant crane.
The top floor of the library provided information about Gotemba and the potential for people to go to Japan next year. As well as this, there were Japanese games such as Kendama, the object of which is to swing a ball onto a part of the stick without it falling off. Wilson student James Pasaribu ’22 dominated winning some green tea chocolate. There were also word searches and Pokemon identification for all ages.
A popular attraction for people was the sushi tasting, which tragically I was not able to indulge in due to my late arrival. They ran out within two hours which suggests its popularity. Moreover, they had a Taiko drumming class which required a surprising amount of both power and technique which demanding a significant amount of energy.
Overall, this cultural day at the Coyle Library was a successful enterprise in increasing knowledge of Gotemba and Japan. Kaitlynn Bjonnes ’21 noted, “The event in a whole was really cool since it had a tie to our school and I wish there had been more advertising about it on campus.” All activities were engaging and people of all ages had a smile on their face at every activity. Pasaribu further commented “I really liked learning about stuff I didn’t know before like the Taiko drumming stuff was really cool.” The Coyle Library representative was unable to be reached and thus unable to comment.