Visalia has a brand new park known as “Miki Park.” This half-acre park, at the corner of Mineral King and Stevenson, near City Hall, has been in the works for many years. The park is designed to re ect Japanese landscaping, including stone lanterns. These lanterns light up and make the park particularly attractive for viewing in the evening. The entrance to the park is an Americanized version of a Japanese torii, which is a traditional Shinto gate.

We dedicated our new park on Saturday, April 22, with the assistance of a 14-person delegation from our sister city of Miki, Japan. The event included speeches, a ribbon cutting, the unveiling of the monument at the center of the park, and the planting of a “sakura,” or cherry tree, to symbolize the friendship between our sister cities.

Included in the Japanese delegation was the vice-mayor of Miki, Japan, Shigetoshi Inoue and the chairperson of the Miki city council, Minoru Hatsuda. Our sister city relationship began in 1966, and in November 2016, Visalia sent an 11-person delegation to Japan to celebrate our 50th anniversary. The dedication of this park celebrates the beginning of our next 50 years as sister cities.

We thank the various local host families who housed our Japanese visitors for several days. We took our guests to a Rawhide baseball game, Sequoia National Park, to see the Riata Ranch cowgirls, and to tour various businesses and COS to get a taste of American lifestyle. Their trip concluded with an all-American barbeque in the Gubler backyard. A highlight of the program that evening was vice-mayor Bob Link and I singing and dancing to the hit Japanese music video “The Apple Pen Song.” If you’re curious, look it up at youtu.be/0E00Zuayv9Q.

We thank all of those who helped make this a memorable trip for our Japanese guests and we look forward to our next visit to our sister city, maybe in 2018? Be sure to drop by and check out our new Miki Park. P.S. I might add that the word Miki translates to “three trees.” Our new park even has three stately old growth sycamore trees, which someone pointed out is symbolic of the “three trees.”