In feudal Japan, 47 loyal Samurai gave their lives to protect the honour of their master. Walking around the picturesque city of Ako in the temperate Hyogo prefecture, you’d never guess the city had such a dramatic past.
In the present day, Ako is a small city with a sister-city program that transcends continental borders. On the 10th of December, a delegation from Rockingham City in Australia joined Ako officials for 7 jam-packed days of talks and events.
The 21 year-long sister city agreement has been key in growing friendship, opportunity, and cultural understanding between Japan and Australia. This year, Kuroko was responsible for conducting and interpreting the entire program.
Far from your average dry and tedious conference, each day was filled with highly productive talks, debates, and negotiations. But we didn't spend all day in the boardroom. After talks, officials visited the Hyogo governor, Earth pharmaceutical corporation, Kansai University, local businesses, and communal facilities. It was wonderful to see how open communication between two cultures sets growth in motion.
It was an honour for us to be a part of this yearly event. Through translating, we discussed major topics with real impact. Rubbish disposal, recycling, and future exchange programs began to take form. Climate change, employment, economic development, tourism, aged care, and disability facilities were debated and possible solutions were discussed. It was thrilling to communicate not only the facts but also the emotion that transcends language.
To finish the trip, officials participated in the annual Gishi festival -- celebrating the momentous sacrifice of those 47 Samurai some 300 years ago.
We have learned how understanding and peace start from local micro-actions. A short chat about recycling can morph into a city-wide movement thousands of miles away. Witnessing the genuine friendship and warmth emanating from Ako was the highlight of this assignment.
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