A Flourishing Friendship
Findlay leaders dedicate cherry trees to local Japanese group to celebrate enduring bond
By SARAH MAYLE
A local resident for just under a year, Friends of Findlay Chairman Tom Fukuda of Japan applauds the welcoming atmosphere in Findlay, especially since his wife and daughter recently arrived to make his home complete.
“I really appreciate this kind of opportunity for the Japanese in Findlay and the surrounding area,” Fukuda said at a ceremony held Monday to dedicate cherry trees to the Friends of Findlay. “There is such an opportunity in this community for cultural exchange, education, business, and medical support.”
Friends of Findlay is a consortium of 13 Japanese companies in Northwest Ohio and the Japanese community. The celebration commemorated a partnership in cultural enrichment, business, education, and medical accessibility fostered nearly 35 years ago that has grown richly over time. Three members of the original group to visit Japan – Frank Guglielmi, Puck Rowe and Jim Koehler – were present at the event.
Moved by the support on each end of the partnership, Rowe wished that others who had the vision back in the 1980s and 1990s of what Findlay could be, could see it today. Many, he said, have passed away or moved on.
“They all would be so pleased that as time has moved on that excellent leadership has stepped forward to keep the vision of the future for the community heading in the right direction and in a very positive manner,” Rowe remarked. “A strong and dedicated teamwork has been the key to the community’s terrific success. We as a community have been blessed in so many ways – today’s celebration to honor the Friends of Findlay is icing on the cake for such an awesome success story.”
Smiling brightly, Guglielmi was moved as well, “This is a fabulous event and really culminates our first effort. It’s just what we wanted to see in Findlay.”
Cherry trees have been a symbol of lasting friendship between the U.S. and Japan since 1912 when Mayor Yukio Ozaki of Tokyo presented 3,000 of the trees to the city of Washington, DC. The blossoms are adored and celebrated in Japan for their beauty. They symbolize hope in new beginnings, love, and – as the blossoms typically last for only about two weeks – cherishing the moment in each day.
In addition to Fukuda, speakers at the Cherry Tree Dedication included Director of Findlay/Hancock County Economic Development Tim Mayle; Dr. Hiro Kawamura of The University of Findlay; Findlay Mayor Lydia Mihalik; and Hancock County Commissioner Brian Robertson.
Mayor Mihalik took the celebration as an opportunity to, “reaffirm our commitment to our Japanese friends who have provided us with so much over the years.”
“These trees are a permanent reminder of the mutually beneficial relationship we have had for decades,” she said.
Cultural Possibilities Growing
More than 5,000 jobs have come to the Findlay area as a result of the partnership, but to demonstrate active ties in all facets of life, Kawamura pointed out that a Rotary exchange student and a visiting professor at The University of Findlay from Japan were in attendance. He mentioned that three separate The University of Findlay groups are currently in Japan, and noted that because of an educational exchange partnership with the Kawaguchi Board of Education, Findlay City Schools Superintendent Ed Kurt and a small group will visit Japan soon.
Kawamura reminded those gathered that Friends of Findlay and the City of Findlay planted 12 cherry trees at Riverside Park as a part of the city’s bicentennial celebration in 2012.
“Cherry trees are well integrated into Findlay history now.”
Fifth-grade choir students from Wilson Vance Elementary sang the song “Sakura” – which means cherry blossom – in Japanese and English. Their music teacher, Judy Wicinski, played along on the recorder flute.
“I’m really excited that we were invited,” Wicinski said. “We have a lot of Japanese students at school and the kids have enjoyed learning this and supporting them.”
A group of the fifth-grade performers, Addison Defend, Ellie Beining, Ava Buck and Anwaar Salama agreed that it’s important to support different cultures. They were pleased to be a part of the celebration.
“We have Japanese friends and now that we learned the song, we know some of their words,” Addison, 10, said. “It’s cool doing the dedication for the cherry trees.”
A plaque, written in both English and Japanese will be installed in Dorney Plaza to commemorate the dedication. It reads, “Commemoration and Commitment to our partnership between Japan and Findlay. City of Findlay, Hancock County, Findlay/Hancock Economic Development, educational institutions within Hancock County, and Friends of Findlay.”