Chicago Shimpo
Mag Mile and Midosuji Become “Sister Streets”
To Commemorate 45th Anniversary of
Chicago-Osaka Sister City Relations

• City of Chicago and City of Osaka signed a “Sister Street Agreement” on June 6, and the Magnificent Mile of Michigan Avenue and Midosuji Boulevard in Osaka became sister streets. It was a part of commemorating events to celebrate the 45th anniversary of Chicago-Osaka sister city relationship.

• The signing ceremony was held at NoMi Kitchen in the Park Hyatt, and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Osaka Mayor Hirofumi Yoshimura signed the agreement. Attendees were the members of Osaka delegation including several Osaka City Council members; John Chikow, President and CEO of the Magnificent Mile Association; Naoki Ito, Consul General of Japan in Chicago; Leroy Allala, Executive Director of Chicago Sister Cities International; Yoko Noge and Kimiyo Naka, both co-Chair of Sister Cities’ Osaka Committee, and other supporters.

• Chikow said, “The two boulevards are fitting because they share many attributes that make them distinctive world class destinations, beautiful tree lines, and important retail, restaurant and hotel offerings benefit residents and millions of visitors each year, and they are economic drivers for our two cities.”
• “It is our understanding that the City of Osaka has a desire to create people centered streets along Midosuji Boulevard. We are excited to share in this vision by exchanging ideas, technical information, practices for urban planning, public-private partnerships, and work toward creative strategies for world class brands,” Chikow said to express the meaningfulness of signing the sister-street agreement.
• According to Chikow, Chicago has its own vision of 2025 plan for the Magnificent Mile, so a meeting with Osaka delegation was very successful.

• Mayor Emanuel welcomed Mayor Yoshimura and Osaka Delegation and said, “I cannot think about better way to commemorate cooperation and collaboration between the two cities. We have a lot to learn from each other.”
• Emanuel talked about a morning meeting with Yoshimura and the delegation that the Mayor had explained how retail and commerce in Chicago had been experiencing changes. As an example, he cited Crate & Barrel’s flagship store on the Magnificent Mile, which will be turned to the world largest Starbucks store next year.
• Emanuel said, “We never sit here on the Magnificent Mile and rest of the world. We are thinking of the future, creating future that people did not have that experience.” “Signing (the sister-street agreement) symbolizes deeper friendship and relationship with Osaka as we build together a global city that everybody is every part of the city and can share,” as he concluded his speech.

• Osaka Mayor Yoshimura greeted saying, “I would like to further develop our mutual cooperation and exchanges in order to accomplish more for our attractive communities and cities,” and introduced Osaka’s plan for bidding the 2025 World Exposition with a theme “Designing Future Society for Our Lives.” He also revealed that Osaka had been named to host G20 summit in June, 2019.
• “Your continued understanding and cooperation would be highly appreciated. I look forward to welcoming you all to the energetic and wonderful Osaka in the near future,” Yoshimura said.

• After the signing ceremony, supporters of Chicago-Osaka sister cities made a parade on the Magnificent Mile between E. Chestnut St. and E. Superior St. The 30-minute parade was led by the Chindon Tsushin Sha, which was consisted of four street performers who came from Osaka to celebrate the 45th anniversary. The parade drew people’s attention, and many of them were taking photos.


Osaka Delegation Visits Chicago to Celebrate
45th Anniversary of Sister-City Partnership

• Chicago welcomed the delegation from the Japanese city of Osaka from June 5 to 10, in celebration of the 45th anniversary of the sister-city partnership between the two cities.

• The delegation was led by Osaka Mayor Hirofumi Yoshimura and included several Osaka city officials and council members. The commemorative events included a mayoral meeting as well as the anniversary reception, Chicago and Osaka Garden tours for the delegation, a ceremonial first pitch at the Chicago Cubs game, and the signing of the “Sister Street Agreement” between Chicago’s “Magnificent Mile” Michigan Avenue and Osaka’s Midosuji Boulevard.

• As reported previously, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Osaka Mayor Yoshimura signed the Sister Street Agreement on June 6, making the two main streets symbols of growing ties between the two cities.
• During the interview following the signing ceremony, Yoshimura stressed that the two streets both stand out as the landmark that represents the city. “As Mayor Emanuel mentioned, a main street is a city’s ‘face’ that reflects its image, and we should strive to make our main street a ‘face’ to represent our city to the world,” Yoshimura said.

• A 30-minute parade on the Magnificent Mile followed the signing ceremony, led by the Chindon Tsushin Sha from Osaka, an advertising band for hire, and attended by the supporters of the sister-city partnership. The band played a tune called “Rokko oroshi,” the theme song of Osaka-based baseball team Hanshin Tigers.
• “It’s Osaka’s very own, Rokko oroshi,” said Yoshimura, who joined the parade. “It’s nice to get to hear the song here in Chicago, a city of the Chicago Cubs and full of love for the game. I think this parade will help many Chicagoans get to know Osaka better.”
• According to Chindon Tsushin Sha, the parade has been broadcast by Asahi Television Broadcasting Corporation (“ABC”) Osaka.

• The 45th Anniversary Reception was held the following day at 360 Chicago, formerly known as John Hancock Observatory. Noting that he was “younger than the history of the sister-city relationship,” Yoshimura, 43, said he would aim to further develop mutual cooperation between the two cities. He also thanked Yoko Noge and Kimiyo Naka, co-Chairs of the Chicago Sister Cities International Osaka Committee, as well as the individual and corporate supporters for their continuing support.

• More anniversary events are to come, including Emanuel’s Osaka visit this month and Chicago women’s mentorship visit to Osaka in October. In March 2019, about 10 Osaka high school students will visit Chicago to obtain overseas experience and English language training, paid by the city of Osaka.

• Chicago has the Osaka Garden, a Japanese garden built on the Wooded Island in Jackson Park, the site where the now lost Ho-o-den (Phoenix Pavilion) had been constructed for the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition. It was named the Osaka Japanese Garden in 2003 when an entrance gate was added to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the Chicago-Osaka Sister Cities partnership.
• The Osaka Garden has been designated as one of the Japanese garden support projects by the Japanese government, and some landscape engineers were among the Osaka delegation to inspect the garden. Yoshimura said he would do everything to help maintain the garden’s extraordinary beauty.
• According to Naoki Ito, Japanese Consul-General in Chicago, the government has decided to send expert gardeners to the Osaka Garden later this year to engage in necessary repairs and renovations. “I hope that the garden will continue to be a wonderful symbol of the close ties between the U.S. and Japan, as well as Chicago and Osaka,” said Ito during the reception.

Interview with Osaka City Council Members

• While showing enthusiasm for a continuing development of the sister-city relationship with Chicago, Osaka Mayor Hirofumi Yoshimura has been a leading promoter of the “Osaka Metropolis Plan” to dissolve the city of Osaka and create “fu,” a metropolis instead of the existing prefecture. A leading member of an Osaka-based political party Osaka Ishin no Kai (“Ishin no Kai”) or the Osaka Restoration Association, Yoshimura has also announced the severing of Osaka’s sister-city ties with San Francisco upon the latter’s approval for erecting a comfort woman statue. Will Osaka’s future with Chicago be safe? What should we expect to happen to the sister city relationship between Osaka and Chicago? The city Council members accompanying the Osaka delegation answered these questions.

The Osaka Metropolis Plan: Council Member Junko Tsuji

• Representing Osaka’s Nishinari Ward, Tsuji is now serving her 4th term as an Osaka council member in her 15th year. Her father, a member of Japan’s leading Liberal Democratic Party (“LDP”), was also a council member before her. Tsuji, a former LDP member, switched over to the newly formed Ishin no Kai eight years ago. The party’s stated visions for reforms deeply impressed her, Tsuji said. “I had a strong feeling that something had to be done.”

Q: Could you explain the current relationship between the city of Osaka and the Osaka prefecture?

• Tsuji: Osaka is the smallest prefecture in Japan in terms of area. The city of Osaka is situated right in the middle of it, and it contains all the potentials for growth [for both the prefecture and the city]. That has intensified competition between the two for the resources and money, and that’s just wasteful.
• Ishin no Kai has been advocating the joining of the resources of the prefecture and the city for eight years now. It’s for the overall growth of Osaka, and the movement has grown a lot compared to eight years ago.

Q: What is the Osaka Metropolis Plan?

• Tsuji: It’s the same as Tokyo [in terms of the administrative structure]. For example, large-scale projects such as tourism and industry will be handled by a new executive office, “to” (or metropolis), while the city of Osaka will be dissolved and subdivided into four special wards, each containing approximately 700,000 residents. The wards will be municipalities that have control over their own elections, health care, welfare, education, etc.
• Currently, the Osaka mayor and Osaka governor are working together with Ishin no Kai toward this goal. The entire Osaka should move to the same direction for overall growth, while each local administration should be led by local leaders. I believe it’s good for the general public, and it’s a good way to spend tax revenues.

Q: Who is opposing the Metropolis Plan?

• Tsuji: Both the LDP and the Japanese Communist Party are against it. So is the New Komeito party.
• This plan will dissolve the existing electoral districts, above all the Osaka City Council. When that happens, the council members will lose their job to the Osaka Metropolis. They want to keep control over the “heavy-weight” works [with political significance]. But the city council exists first and foremost for the benefit of the citizens of Osaka and overall growth of the community, and you just can’t carry out any reforms when all you think about is your political ambitions.

Q: How is Osaka changing today?

• Tsuji: Osaka has more visitors from abroad today - once they were about 1.64 million, and now the number has reached 11 million.
• You can see that the busy streets are full of visitors from abroad, if you walk around the areas from Namba to Shinsaibashi. Dotonbori, one of the busiest spots, has now sidewalks along the river for the citizens and visitors to enjoy.
• Osaka has two major parks – Osaka Castle Park and Tennoji Park – and both are run by private companies subcontracted by the city.
• The Osaka Castle Park is attracting more and more visitors and tourists with restaurants, theaters, and outdoor performances. I think it’s very important [to have many attractions like that].
• The Osaka Station has been renovated, and more development is going on in its north side (Umekita).
• Grand Front Osaka [a new commercial complex building] has opened in the north side of the station, and a new construction will begin on the adjacent lot – half of the lot may become a public green spot. We’ll determine the plan by the end of the year.
• Also, the former Hanshin Department Store and Hankyu Department Store, joined together in 2007, are now building a new store in front of the Osaka Station. Sogo Department Stores in Shinsaibashi and Namba are also under renovation after Daimaru has purchased the chain.

Q: Thank you very much.

Future of the Sister Cities: Council Member Taeko Kitano

• An LDP member, Taeko Kitano was first elected in 2005 from the Yodogawa Ward and is now serving her 4th term as an Osaka City Council member.

Q: Mayor Yoshimura has announced the dissolution of sister-city ties with San Francisco. Do you think there’s a risk for the same thing to happen with Chicago?

• Kitano: I’ve said we’ll definitely celebrate the 50th anniversary with Chicago.
• The obvious issues are the erection of a comfort woman statue and the Metropolis Plan.
• If you cut sister-city ties with San Francisco because the city has allowed a comfort woman statue to be erected in its public space, then you can’t say that Chicago is an exception if, in the future, it does the same thing as San Francisco.
• I think the mayor should admit that he’s made a mistake [in dissolving the sister-city relationship with San Francisco]. Relationships between municipalities and sister cities are not the same thing as diplomatic relations between nations. There are many cases where citizens’ groups and municipalities retain good relationships across the borders without any diplomatic relationship between the nations.
• San Francisco has its own issues and problems, just like everybody else. We should have courage to announce that we will continue the sister-city partnership. I hope the mayor will solve the issue based on a good will.

Q: What is your view on the Osaka Metropolis Plan and the sister city relationship?

• Kitano: Mr. Yoshimura is the one who is promoting the Metropolis Plan. As a sister city agreement is based on the premise that the two cities have a similar size of population and economy, it doesn’t make sense to divide up one of the parties, Osaka, into four smaller wards and collectively call them a partner of Chicago.
• I wanted to express my view for preserving the city of Osaka, and that’s the purpose of my Chicago visit this time. If we are going to celebrate the 50th anniversary with Chicago five years from now, it should be between the city of Osaka, as it is now, and the city of Chicago.
• The city of Osaka should be preserved so it can maintain its existing sister-city agreements with eight foreign cities; Prime Minister Abe has expressed the same sentiment.
• We can’t achieve world peace without citizens- and city-level diplomacy.

Q: Thank you very much.

A parade to commemorate the 45th Anniversary of Chicago-Osaka sister city relations. Chindon Tsushinsha from Osaka and Yoko Noge, co-Chair of Chicago Sisiter Cities International Osaka Committee lead the parade. Osaka Mayor Hirofumi Yoshimura and Consul General Naoki Ito march on Mag Mile with other supporters.

Osaka Mayor Hirofumi Yoshimura shakes hands with Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel after signing "Sister Street Agreement."