Montpelier, Vt. – Vermont Governor Phil Scott today welcomed Governor Shinji Hirai of Tottori Prefecture, Japan, to sign a Sister State Agreement between Vermont and Tottori Prefecture, Japan’s smallest prefecture.
“On the face of it, one wouldn’t think there would be much in common between Vermont and Tottori, Japan,” said Governor Scott. “After all, we are over 6,000 miles apart and do not share the same language. However, there are many similarities, from our small populations to our beautiful mountains and outdoor recreation. Vermont looks forward to continuing our relationship with Tottori and to broaden the exchanges to include tourism and trade between the two regions.”
The relationship between Vermont and Tottori began two decades ago when then-Vice Governor Hirai met with then-Governor Howard Dean, facilitated by the Japan America Society of Vermont (JASV). JASV and the Tottori Prefectural International Exchange Foundation (TPIEF) signed a Sister Organization Agreement that fostered educational and cultural exchanges between adults and students in both regions, including exchanges between students at Tottori University’s Medical School and University of Vermont’s College of Medicine.
In 2008, Governor Hirai returned to Vermont to sign a Friendship Agreement with Governor Jim Douglas. Over the next decade, TPIEF and Green Across the World (GATW), a Shoreham-based nonprofit dedicated to cultural and environmental awareness and cooperation, facilitated annual reciprocal exchanges for high school students in Tottori and Vermont.
“We are both 600,000 people, so we are small in population,” said Governor Hirai. “But, we have the power to develop ourselves, which is why we are here. I’m pleased to come to Vermont with my people to explore the beautiful state of Vermont.”
Approximately one quarter the size of Vermont, the Tottori prefecture lies in Western Japan on the north coast along the Sea of Japan and is known for its coastal mountains and sand dunes. Tottori and Vermont share similar small populations, natural beauty and dedication to rural economic development. With an aging population, Tottori experiences some of the same challenges that Vermont faces. The exchange of ideas will foster commerce and tourism between the regions.
After the signing, the Governors exchanged keys and hosted a reception in the Cedar Creek Room in the State House that included a koto performance by Misuki Ohnishi-san.
During an event hosted by GATW on July 17, TPIEF and GATW renewed a Sister Organization Agreement that will continue to support youth exchanges between Vermont and Tottori.
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