On April 25, 2018, Sasakawa USA hosted Grace Ruch Clegg, Former Projects and Outreach Coordinator at the East-West Center in Washington, to present on her upcoming paper, “Sister Cities: Seedbed for the Grassroots of U.S.-Japan Relations.” The luncheon was part of Sasakawa USA’s Alumni Program and moderated by Juliane Doscher, Executive Assistant to the CEO & Program Assistant at Sasakawa USA.
As a culmination of her research on U.S.-Japan sister city relations as a participant of Sasakawa USA’s In-Depth Alumni Research Trip, Ruch Clegg discussed her methodology and history of U.S.-Japan sister relationships, and shared her findings on the impact of sister city relations on U.S.-Japan relations, challenges facing these relationships, and recommendations on how the United States and Japan can better support and utilize sister cities to enhance the bilateral relationship.
She explained that there are over 460 sister relationships between the cities and states/prefectures of the United States and Japan. These formal local partnerships provide valuable opportunities for citizens of both countries to interact directly, and form the basis of some of the “grassroots” relationships that are crucial to our bilateral relationship. Despite their importance however, they are generally overlooked and little understood among U.S.-Japan policy circles.
Ruch Clegg outlined her core question of “How can we better utilize and support these sister relationships to enhance the U.S. Japan relationship?” as the driving question for her meetings in Japan and the United States. Lessons learned at these meetings that influenced her recommendations for the policy community are as follows:
● Sister city relationships have been largely Japan-lead and driven
● Leadership is key to the success of the relationships
● Many are satisfied with exchange for exchange sake due to the benefits
● There is a significant level of interest in determining the best way to promote and support sister cities without harming the important grass roots nature
The discussion concluded with Ruch Clegg briefly running through her recommendations and engaging in an involved Q&A session with the participants. Her paper, to be published on Sasakawa USA’s website, will further outline the topics above through her case studies.
Approximately 15 people participated in the discussion from organizations involved in U.S.-Japan relations, international exchange, and international education such as the Japan-American Society of Washington DC, Sister Cities International, and the Embassy of Japan in Washington D.C.