By Casie Duchak
For the Troy Daily News
TROY — Troy is a lovely city located in Southwestern Ohio and surrounded by miles of fields and rural areas. However, it has a very close connection with a country located 9,000 miles away; the Japanese community is ever expanding and has a big impact on the opportunities here in Troy.
Among the Japanese students at Troy High School is senior Minori Nakada. Nakada moved to Troy three years ago with her family when her father got assigned here for work. Moving to a new country and being surrounded by a very different culture was difficult and scary for her, but she was welcomed with open arms by not only the students, but the community of Troy as a whole.
“People here are very nice and friendly,” explained Nakada, with the help of the high school translator, Izumi Allen. “And it’s really safe here.”
Learning English was one of the bigger roadblocks that Nakada had to face upon moving to Troy and the process is going slower than expected, but with the help of the ESL program at the school and being immersed in the language, she is learning.
“The biggest help in learning English has been being part of the gymnastics team and having patient friends on the team who take time to understand what I’m saying,” she said.
Many Japanese students find niches in the community at THS by joining different clubs and sports teams. Nakada is a member of the gymnastics team, which qualified for the state championships earlier this year. She emphasized many times that being a part of the team has helped her not only learn English, but also helped her make friends and adjust more easily to her new environment.
Troy students also have the opportunity to immerse themselves in Japanese culture through a program called Sister Cities International. Founded by President Eisenhower in 1956, the goal of the program was to encourage citizen diplomacy, lessen the formation of international conflicts, and learn to celebrate and accept other cultures. Cities, counties and states have the option to become members of the organization and will be matched with other cities and regions around the world.
Troy’s sister city is Takahashi City, a city located in the Okayama Prefecture. According to administrative assistant and clerk of council Sue Knight, the two cities were matched by Doctor Eleanor Koch, a professor at Wright State University and Kibi University in Japan, for the several similarities they share. From the local focus on education to physical landmarks such as a river running through the city, Takahashi City and Troy were the perfect match.
Knight explained that the resolution was written in 1989 when the local councilmen and women in both places agreed to join the cities together. The official agreement was signed by the mayors at the time, Mayor Douglas Campbell of Troy and Mayor Osamu Higuchi of Takahashi City, when each visited the other’s city in 1990.
Ironically enough, both Mayor Campbell and Mayor Higuchi had fought in the Pacific Theatre during World War II.
“When they first met, they met not as adversaries, but as friends,” Mayor Beamish reflected. “And that friendship continued to strengthen over the years. It became a bond of love, a phrase we still use to describe the relationship between Troy and Takahashi City.”
Since the signing, mayors have come in and out of office, but all have continued to strengthen the bonds between Takahashi City and Troy. Students, adults, and delegates travel to and from Troy and Takahashi City. Events are planned and host families do everything in their power to make a welcoming environment and good experience for visitors to their town. With each visit, local art is also exchanged. The first gift given to Troy from Takahashi City was an ornate geisha doll made in the local doll factory, now displayed with the other gifts outside and around the mayor’s office in the Municipal Building downtown.
Mayor Campbell, Mayor Beamish and Doctor Koch are the only three people to be honored with the title of Special Honorary Citizen of International Goodwill for Takahashi City.
The exchange of cultures not only broadens the understanding and openness of the residents of Troy and Takahashi, but also promotes Japanese companies to come to this area to build factories and create jobs for the local citizens. Troy was named one of the top ten cities in Ohio for Japanese companies and families to settle.
Mayor Beamish commented, “I think our relationship with Takahashi City has really helped bring other Japanese companies here because they know we’ll be very welcoming of them.”
Like Minori Nakada’s father, many of the Japanese families come to work in the companies that are located in and around Troy. F & P America, Ftech R&D North America Inc. and Honda are Japanese-owned businesses that bring in thousands of jobs for Ohioans.
The benefits of Troy’s relationships with Japan continue to increase and the community forming because of them give Troy something special. From the little “international park” filled with friendship Japanese cherry blossom trees and lilacs to the multiple job opportunities to the chance for Troy residents to travel across the world to experience a totally different culture, the importance of the Japanese community will always be recognized.
Casie Duchak is a student at Troy High School and a member of the Trojan Tempo.