Overseas Flag Trade Symbolizes Global Friendship

Massachusetts city strengthens bond with Japanese city and commemorates 25th anniversary.

After 25 years of friendship, Fairhaven, Massachusetts still enjoys a strong bond with Tosashimizu, Japan. This past October, delegates of Fairhaven took a trip to the small Japanese fishing village in order to celebrate the annual John Manjiro Festival and to commemorate the 25th anniversary of these two towns joining together as sister cities.

This special festival alternates between Tosashimizu and Fairhaven each year. One Fairhaven resident Michael Silvia who attended the festival this year called their relationship with the sister city very good and described the trip abroad as, “always a lot of fun going to visit and seeing their traditions.”

Flag Trade Handshake

This year delegates from both towns traded municipal flags as part of the big celebration. The Japanese flag consists of a white field with a blue circular design, which Silvia presented to the town mid-November at a selectmen’s meeting. Everyone has agreed to put the flag on display, but have yet to decide where exactly.

But just how did this random relationship blossom into such a strong bond? The sister city friendship dates back to 1841 when William Whitfield saved a shipwrecked 14-year-old Japanese boy John Manjiro. Whitfield brought him back to Fairhaven where he lived for almost 10 years before returning home to Japan. Then 13 years later in 1854, Manjiro took advantage of his Fairhaven education and became a translator for American visitors. He eventually helped open Japan to foreign trade for the first time.

The sister city agreement became official in 1987 when the two towns signed a pledge. Today the Whitfield-Manjiro Friendship Society, run by Gerry Rooney, helps foster this historic bond. The cities’ flag trade is sure to remind both towns of the global relationship they will forever share.

Credit: South Coast Today

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