Ikeda Delegation 2011 Visit to Penticton (Sept. 28-Oct. 2)
Lester Patrick, President of the Penticton-Ikeda Sister City Society, was with the adult delegates during most of the 2011 visit and he submitted this write-up together with these photos outlining their visit to Penticton. For more photos of the visit, please go to our Gallery. Bob Harvey, Past President of the Sister City Society & Treasurer, also submitted a letter of appreciation to The Penticton Herald thanking everyone for their hard work & support for during the 2011 visit.
At Penticton AIrport, the Penticton-Ikeda Sister City Society (together with many friends) were eagerly anticipating the Ikeda Delegation's arrival. As the arrival time approached, several welcomers took out the big "Welcome Ikeda Delegation" banner and stretched it out in the airport lobby so everyone could see it. When the plane landed and the delegation disembarked, I stepped outside the arrival area on to the walkway and began snapping photos and greeting our delegation. In total there were 31 in the delegation: 16 adults, 12 students, 1 tour guide (plus 2 more from Ikeda who arrived the day before as a surprise). After the visitors gathered their luggage, we hustled them on to the buses (one bus supplied by Councilman John Vassilaki and one provided by The Salvation Army Penticton) and headed straight to Penticton City Hall. (Photos of Airport Arrival)
Councilman John Vassilaki and Deputy City Clerk Karen Burley were on hand to greet the visitors at City Hall. John gave the adults & students a warm, friendly, and detailed tour of City Hall and answered the many questions put forth by the curious adults. Unfortunately there was a special conference that week and Dan Ashton, Mayor of Penticton, and the other Council Members could not be on hand to greet the visitors. However, the visitors thoroughly enjoyed the tour which ended in the Council Chambers with snacks and refreshments for everyone. In the middle of the tour, I quickly escorted 4 of the adults (Kenji Amano, Koichi Etori, Kuniharu Minami, & Misako Azetsu) to Giant FM for a short, live radio interview. The interview went very well and the people of Penticton had the opportunity to hear about the Sister City visit and the Sister City relationship as well as the visitor's impressions of Penticton. (Photos of City Hall Visit)
After the City Hall tour and Giant FM radio interview, everyone made their way to the Penticton-Ikeda Japanese Gardens for a tour of the garden & a break for lunch. The weather was spectacular - bright, blue skies all day long - and the visitors took great interest in the garden, especially the Japanese Koi which the students had an opportunity to feed. Lorna & Al were on hand to greet and welcome the visitors, and Lorna also gave a speech welcoming the new garden volunteers and thanking all the volunteers for their hard work and dedication and presenting them with beautiful Japanese-style gifts. The box lunch was delicious and the visitors appreciated the time to sit and relax in the garden after such a long trip.
While the students were taken to the Penticton Community Centre for an afternoon of swimming, the adults were given tours of both the South Okanagan Events Centre and the Penticton Community Centre. The South Okanagan Events Centre (SOEC) tour was most informative and the adults asked many questions about this beautiful facility. We had the chance to go to the VIP room, the Audio Room, as well as the VIP Party Room. We were fortunate to see the Okanagan Hockey School in practice and after the tour was over everyone relaxed in the VIP Party Room and watched the young players practice their hockey skills. After the SOEC tour, we walked over to the Penticton Community Centre and again the visitors asked many questions about the centre and its newly renovated surroundings. They were most impressed by the swimming pools and were very curious about the child-minding area which they thought was a great idea! (Photos of Giant FM radio interview, lunch at Penticton-Ikeda Japanese Gardens, and tours of SOEC & Penticton Community Centre)
Don & Kerry hosted the visitors at a private dinner party held at their fabulous home overlooking Okanagan Lake. The party was held outdoors on the back lawn and again the weather cooperated and it was a wonderful fall evening. The food was excellent - barbequed salmon & halibut, a variety of salads, and scrumptous desserts - and the visitors had a chance to "let down their hair" and socialize with old friends and meet new friends. The evening's entertainment was wonderful and also unique - a First Nations family from Saskatchewan entertained us with music, jokes, and dancing. Two of the Japanese guests even had the chance to put on jingle dresses and dance with the youngest dancer. A round dance ended the evening and many of the visitors remarked that it was one of the best parties they had ever attended! (Photos of Welcoming Party)
On the second day we were up bright and early, and headed south to the resort town of Osoyoos. We arrived at the Nk'Mip Desert Culture Centre earlier than expected so we took advantage of the clear, blue skies and zig-zagged our way up Anarchist Mountain to the Anarchist Mountain Lookout for a spectacular view of the Okanagan Valley. The visitors were awe-struck with the sweeping beauty of the landscape, and there were plenty of "oohhs and aahhs" as they clicked away with their cameras! I pointed out the "invisible" border separating the two countries (they could not get over how the United States and Canada were divided without any wall or fence), and I explained the different geographic regions of the valley and beyond. The visitors were most impressed with the lookout and the view, and I even received a few deep bows from people thanking me for bringing them to such a beautiful spot!
We drove down Anarchist Mountain and made our way back to the Nk'Mip Desert Culture Centre. Bob, our tour guide, was very good and he conducted the tour using simple, easy-to-understand English which was greatly appreciated by the visitors. The delegation loved learning about the Nk'Mip culture and history and they were fascinated by the displays on hand. They commented how similar the Okanagan people's lifestyle and living quarters were to the aboriginal people in Hokkaido, the Ainu. Bob showed us a large plastic model of a beetle and the Japanese visitors were relieved to find out the desert beetle was not exactly the same size! The salmon display in the Nk'Mip village was a big hit. The Okanagan people fished the waters and caught and smoked salmon which was an important staple their diet. In Japan, salmon is a very popular fish and they commented how delicious the freshly-caught salmon must have tasted in those days. After the tour, we stayed for the rattlesnake show which taught the audience all about the desert snakes and the importance of protecting and caring for the desert snakes in their natural habitat.
After the Nk'Mip Desert Culture tour, we picked up our bento boxes (Japanese-style lunch box) from Japan Eats and drove down to Haynes Point Provincial Park for a picnic by the lake. I pointed out Anarchist Mountain in the distance and explained that the spit we saw on Osoyoos Lake from the lookout is the same spit we are now having lunch. They loved looking out on the lake while they feasted on delicious Japanese food (they could not believe this food was actually made in Osoyoos, not Japan!). The weather was warm and sunny, and everyone brought out their cameras and took photos of both the lake and their fellow picnickers. The visitors commented how nice it was to eat outdoors amidst such beautiful surroundings. (Photos from Anarchist Mountain Lookout, Nk'Mip Desert Culture Centre, and Haynes Point Picnic)
On our way back to Penticton, we stopped in at Tinhorn Creek Vineyards in Oliver. The visitors had a great time exploring the wine shop but the big highlight was the chance to taste the different varieties of wine grapes. They wandered in and out among the different rows of vines and compared the tastes of Chardonnay, Merlot, Pinot Gris, and the many other grape varieties. After eating the grapes, we headed indoors and did some wine tasting and then made our way to the bottles of Tinhorn Creek wine and other souvenirs. After we left Tinhorn Creek, we drove north to Penticton but only got as far as Vaseux Lake when the police told everyone to turn around! There had been a traffic accident and Highway 97 was closed for the rest of the afternoon. I suddenly remembered the backroad to Penticton so we headed high up into the hills along White Lake Road which gave everyone the opportunity to see the picturesque fields and farms dotting this back country road. We arrived on time at Penticton Lakeside Resort and the guests returned to their rooms to freshen up and get ready for the Civic Banquet hosted by the City of Penticton.
The Civic Banquet was a very special event for our Japanese guests. Everyone got dressed up and mingled with the "Pentictonites" in a beautifully decorated ballroom at the resort hotel. The visitors were piped in by a local bagpiper, and after everyone sat down we dined on a delicious roast beef dinner. After dinner, speeches were delivered by Councilman John Vassilaki, Ikeda City Hall Representative Shinsaku Koyama, Ikeda-Penticton Sister City Society President Koichi Saito, and finally Atsuko & myself who were representing the Penticton-Ikeda Sister City Society. When the speeches were over, the crowd was entertained by three first-class singers, including an 8 year old boy who amazed the crowd with his excellent singing and guitar playing. (Photos of Tinhorn Creek Vineyard & Civic Banquet at the Penticton Lakeside Resort)
The morning was spent shopping at Cherry Lane Mall and the Wine Country Wine Shop. The visitors appreciated the opportunity to go off on their own and explore the different stores and puchase souvenirs for friends and family back home in Japan. After shopping, we boarded the bus and drove to Kaleden's famous Linden Gardens. Upon our arrival we were taken on a very interesting and informative tour of the gardens, including a tour of the owner's house which was beautiful designed and decorated. Ken, our tour guide & owner of Linden Gardens, was very knowledgable about the flowers, shrubs, and trees. He also pointed out the Japanese variety of fauna and Canadian variety of common Japanese fauna which was very interesting for our guests. Lunch at Linden Garden's Frog City Cafe was very, very good - homemade soup, sandwiches, and salad.
The tour of the Cannery Brewing Company was also a lot of fun. The tour guide took us through the beer making facility and explained in detail how the beer was made and bottled. The guests asked many questions about the hops and beer-making process. Some of the English was technical and a bit difficult to understand but a few of the delegates spoke excellent English so they translated the difficult parts into Japanese for the rest of the group. Our tour guide also noted that every summer she hosts Japanese translators from SFU who are learning how to translate the beer-making process from English to Japanese. At the end of the tour the delegates were taken to the beer tasting room where they sampled the many different types of Cannery Brewing beer. In Japan beer is a very popular drink and in the summertime when it is hot & humid the beer gardens are full every night. Our guests congratulated the guide for making such excellent beer. They told her that the Cannery Brewing beer was very tasty and they had a difficult time deciding which one was the best! (Photos of Linden Gardens & the Cannery Brewing Company)
The First Nations bracelet making lesson at the Penticton Art Gallery was next on the agenda and it was a big hit. The visitors appreciated the chance to learn how to make First Nations bracelets, and they thought they would be wonderful souvenirs to take back home to Japan. Mitchell, the instructor, showed everyone the different types of First Nations crafts, and then he distributed the materials to the delegates. Mitchell went around the room and carefully explained and helped the students as they slowly put together their bracelets. On average, Mitchell told me, it takes 2 or 2 1/2 hours to make a bracelet but the Japanese visitors got right to it and finished their bracelets in less than 90 minutes! In general, the Japanese people have a deep appreciation for the arts and crafts and this group from Ikeda was no exception. I was amazed how quickly they took to the task at hand and produced so many beautiful bracelets in such a short time!
The third day ended with a private dinner at Carol & Bob's house. Turkey dinner was served to the guests, and with the dinner being held indoors it was a chance to sit and talk with everyone and exchange stories about the current visit and past visits to both Penticton and Ikeda. The turkey dinner was delicious and the Japanese guests enjoyed eating a typical Canadian holiday dinner which is not so typical in Japan (it is difficult to find turkey and even more difficult to bake it since not many households have Western-size ovens). There was entertainment, speeches, and gift-giving throughout the dinner and we even had a surprise guest - Mayor Dan Ashton - who drove straight from the airport to the party to welcome the delegation. Everyone had a nice, relaxing visit and the delegated commented how much they enjoy visiting people's homes and learning how Canadians live and socialize. (Photos of the First Nations Bracelet Making Lesson & the Private Dinner Party)
On the fourth day the weather turned cold and cloudy but that did not stop the visitors from enjoying the Saturday morning Farmer's Market in downtown Penticton. They took great interest in the fresh fruit and vegetables, the homemade baked goods, and the handmade arts and crafts. When I explained the market ran from May to the end of October they were surprised and commented on the large number and variety of market stalls lining Main Street. Many of the visitors went off on their own to shop and practice their English with the local vendors. Indeed, I happened to overhear one exchange between a local vendor and two of our Japanese visitors. The vendor said he spent a few years in Japan and told them how much he loved the Japanese people and how kind they were toward him during his time in Japan. It was a great chance for our visitors to talk and meet the many vendors and learn about the success & popularity of our Penticton's Farmer's Market.
Just before noon the Casabella Princess docked at the Penticton Lakeside Resort, and everyone boarded this beautiful paddlewheeler and set off for a luncheon cruise on Okanagan Lake. It was a cool and windy afternoon but the visitors had a very relaxing time soaking up the views of the lake and the surrounding hills. It was a unique opportunity to see Penticton from the water and they appreciated the chance to do so. The hosts, Barb & Andy, were very gracious to our guests and everyone deeply appreciated their hospitality. After the cruise, we headed north to Summerland Ornamental Gardens. We toured the beautiful 16 acre English-style gardens and the groundskeeper's house which is now a museum. The tour guides gave us a full description of the fascinating history of the gardens, and the guests had the chance to look back into local history and see how Canadians lived and worked on these agricultural research grounds many years ago. That evening a farewell party was held at John & Barbara's home on the shores of Skaha Lake. The guests were treated to a Greek-style buffet dinner complete with a belly dancer! The buffet dinner was superb and the guests had a lot of fun dining on the many Greek dishes and learning a bit about Greek culture right here in Penticton. (Photos of the Casabella Princess Cruise)
It was a very sad farewell as the guests departed Penticton for Banff. There were many tears as we said goodbye to our Japanese friends and wished them the best on the next leg of their journey. They replied that they had a wonderful stay in Penticton, and they wished they could have stayed longer. We promised that we would be planning our visit to Ikeda and we hoped the visit would take place in the fall of 2012. All in all, it was a very successful visit and we loved hosting the Ikeda Delegation. Both the adults & the students had a lot of fun during their stay and after they returned to Japan they contacted us by email and extended their deep, heartfelt appreciation for our hospitality and looked forward to meeting everyone again in the near future.(Letter of Appreciation to Volunteers & Supporters of the 2011 Visit).