Following is the story of how our Sister City relationship began and continues to evolve.
In the early 1960s, following a written request from students of Daigo Junior High School (a Matsudo municipal school), the Australian Ambassador to Japan gifted 100,000 eucalyptus seeds to the City of Matsudo, to assist with tree planting and improve greenery in their city.
In 1969, the then Mayor of Box Hill, the late Cr Ron Gleghorn, initiated discussion between the Japanese Consulate and the Australian Embassy, with a view to establishing a Sister City relationship. The result was the formation of a relationship with the City of Matsudo, Japan.
Following a visit in June 1970 by the then Mayor of Matsudo, the late Mr Koyoshi Matsumoto, the two cities formalised the affiliation with a ceremony in Matsudo on 12 May 1971. After the Sister City Relationship between the two Cities was formalised in 1971, visits between officials took place over the years to celebrate significant anniversaries, events/occasions. In July 1972, the eucalyptus was adopted by the City of Matsudo as their official international tree.
The City of Whitehorse was proclaimed in December 1994 with the amalgamation of the two former cities of Box Hill and Nunawading. Following the creation of the City of Whitehorse, A Memorandum of Understanding was developed in 1995 to give new life and a new direction for the Whitehorse-Matsudo Sister City relationship. The relationship was further strengthened in May 1996 (the 25th anniversary) when a delegation from Matsudo visited the City of Whitehorse and the Sister City Agreement was reaffirmed. Following the formalisation of the 1995 Memorandum of Understanding between Whitehorse and Matsudo, official visits to recognise and reaffirm our Sister City relationship have occurred at each five year anniversary: 2001, 2006 and 2012 (i.e. once every 10 years a delegation will visit Whitehorse and once every 10 years a delegation will visit Matsudo).
The former Box Hill Council was the first municipality in the state of Victoria, and one of the first in Australia, to establish a Sister City link with a Japanese city. Our Whitehorse-Matsudo Sister City relationship is the longest running Victorian sister city relationship, and one of the longest running in Australia.
May 2016 marked the 45th anniversary of the relationship with a visit to the City of Whitehorse by a delegation of officials and community members from the City of Matsudo. The Sister City Relationship was formally reaffirmed with a signed declaration by the Mayors of both Cities.
The City of Matsudo is a relatively large residential suburb of Tokyo, on the border of the City of Tokyo itself. It is 20 kilometres from the centre of Tokyo and located in the Chiba Prefecture. It has a total area of 62 square kilometres and has a population of approximately 482,000, represented by 44 assembly members (Councillors) and a full-time Mayor.
The City’s Cherry Blossom Festival, held annually in early April, attracts over 400,000 visitors. In August there is a summer riverside fireworks display and on the first weekend of October the annual autumn Matsudo Festival is held in the streets, attracting tens of thousands of visitors.
There are many parks within the City, including the beautiful Forest and Park for the 21st Century. This 50.5 hectares park, built almost in the centre of the city, is divided into three themes – nature, recreation and culture. Official City trees include the eucalyptus, chinquapin, cherry blossom and nashi pear. Official City flowers are the azalea, hydrangea and wild chrysanthemum; and birds are the owl, swallow and white heron.
A sister city relationship is a link between communities or cities in different parts of the world with different cultures. Sister city relationships support international friendship and understanding; cultural awareness and appreciation; goodwill, harmony and increased tolerance; all of which assist in building strong international links. The sister city movement, as a worldwide concept, became prominent following the end of World War II, with the aim to encourage peace and understanding between people from different backgrounds, particularly those with cultural differences.
Through formal ties between local governments, sister cities support the ongoing exchange of people, ideas and resources in a variety of cultural, educational and sporting activities, to the mutual benefit of all those involved.
The following activities are held annually on or around the 12 May anniversary date:
- Green Tree Day: Each year on 12 May, a tree planting ceremony is held simultaneously in Matsudo and Whitehorse to celebrate our Sister City anniversary. Both Mayors speak on the telephone; messages are exchanged as are photos taken on the day.
Unfortunately this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions and social distancing, Matsudo and Whitehorse jointly agreed to cancel our normal Green Tree day planting ceremony. Mutual letters of support and best wishes were exchanged between Mayor Ellis and Mayor Hongoya. Please note Matsudo virtual concerts and activities were conducted by the staff of Box Hill Community Arts Centre to celebrate Matsudo week.
- Matsudo Week: During the month of May, celebrations at the Box Hill Community Arts Centre include a range of Japanese themed courses, activities and exhibitions including art, craft, food and music, some of which are subsidised by the City of Whitehorse.
- Japan Festival: This annual event is held in May at the Box Hill Town Hall and is run by the Japan Club of Victoria. The Festival, which is supported by the City of Whitehorse, provides a rich variety of exhibits and stalls, and attracts people of all ages and nationalities.
Over the years numerous citizen visits and exchanges, particularly of young people, have occurred and continue regularly, including participation from students, Scouts, Guides, local Lions and sporting clubs. Many firm friendships have been established which continue to this day.
- English Speech Contest Winners: Each year the City of Matsudo sends a delegation of students who are winners of an English speech competition held amongst City of Matsudo high schools. The students are hosted and home-stayed by Koonung Secondary College students and their families, attending classes and excursions at the College. Concurrently, Koonung Secondary College has an arrangement for regular student exchanges with their Sister School, Matsudo Municipal High School. This Sister School relationship commenced in 1987.
- Scouts and Girl Guides: Whitehorse Scouts (formerly Box Hill) and Scouts of Matsudo have a long and close relationship of more than 30 years. Reciprocal exchanges are arranged every three years. The Whitehorse Girl Guides and Matsudo Guides also have a long standing relationship which commenced in 1985, with many exchanges occurring over the years. Exchanges take place every two years.