2016: Troop 999 visits Troop 2 in Sister City of Yotsukaido, Japan

In July of 2016 Troop 999 visited Troop 2 in our sister city of Yotsukaido, Japan.  We hiked Mt. Fuji, toured Yotsukaido, Chiba, and Tokyo.  We tried new foods, saw a traditional Buddhist ceremony, and participate in a formal tea ceremony.  The Mercury Times printed a nice article detailing the long term friendship between the two Troops and cities. This article originally appeared in the Mercury News on August 16th, 2016.

http://www.mercurynews.com/2016/08/16/how-we-met-livermore-yotsukaido-boy-scouts-partners-for-decades/


In 1977, Livermore established a sister city relationship with Yotsukaido, a Japanese city located about 45 minutes outside of Tokyo.

“Back in 1977, it was very common for cities to want to be part of the sister city organization,” explained Keith Jess, president of the Livermore Yotsukaido Sister City Organization (LYSCO). “It was something that was done in 1977. It was something a lot of the cities were doing.”

Through the international organization — Sister Cities International — Livermore and Yotsukaido were paired because of their similarities in terms of industry, agriculture, population, social economics and art.

“They tried to match a town that matches you … you go to Yotsukaido, it’s just like Livermore,” Jess said.

And, perhaps surprisingly, the cities still remain fairly similar, according to Jess. He says Yotsukaido is a bit bigger in terms of population, but the cities are kind of growing together.

In 1986, Livermore and Yotsukaido embarked on a new relationship, this time between their respective Boy Scout organizations. It started with Marshall Kamena, mayor emeritus of Livermore and a former scoutmaster. 

In 1979, during the Americans’ inaugural trip to Yotsukaido, Kamena met Japan’s scoutmaster from Boy Scouts of Japan and developed an official relationship between the troops (one unattached to LYSCO). In 1984, Kamena signed an official agreement to become sister city scouts. In 1986, troops enjoyed their first sister city trip.

“At that point, in order to make it official, I suggested in July 1986 that we meet in Yosemite and have the first exchange,” he said. “That first one in 1986 really set the tone.”

Since then, Boy Scouts — like other participants of LYSCO — have continued to travel back and forth from Livermore to Yotsukaido. In July, nine Livermore Boy Scouts, six parents and two longtime scouters embarked on a 10-day trip to Yotsukaido. It was the fifth visit to Yotsukaido for Livermore scouts.

The cities’ previous scout exchange was in 2014, when Yotsukaido Boy Scouts visited Livermore and enjoyed a joint camping trip to Lake Margaret in the Sierras.

While the Livermore-Yotsukaido partnership began in 1977, with adults traveling between the two cities every other year, LYSCO didn’t start a student exchange program — every year in October, 20 Livermore residents go to Yotsukaido, and in March Yotsukaido students come here — until 2001, making the sister city scout relationship the first to revolve around youth trips. 

“It is a nice area. It’s almost everything that you would expect Japan to be,” said Livermore resident Sean Jackson, 28, a former Boy Scout who visited Yotsukaido with his troop in 2000 when he was 11.

“We were able to stay with family members in the city,” he said, describing Yotsukaido as suburban, nice, clean and safe.

“Staying with scout families in their homes, you are treated like visiting royalty,” echoed Russell Greenlaw, 71, who accompanied the group in July, his fourth trip to Yotsukaido. 

Greenlaw said past trips have involved hiking Mount Fuji, camping at the lakes, visiting Tokyo and the old capital of Kamakura, beach parties and fishing.

“Boy Scouts have a mission of developing character including responsibility and self confidence. Challenging activities definitely do that,” he said. “Travel is broadening, and the culture of Japan is sufficiently different that it is a challenge to visit there and quickly adapt to different foods, customs and everyday life.”