Concord readies for arrival of sister city delegation from Japan 

By Celeste Katz Marston
October 18, 2023

Get ready to say yōkoso — welcome — to visitors from Concord’s sister city.  

A group from Nanae, Japan will visit at the end of the month, Mike Lawson of the Concord Nanae Network updated the Select Board.  

Starting October 28, “we’ll have a delegation of 11 folks from Nanai, three adults and eight school children — three high school students and five middle school students — who will be staying with families in the area,” Lawson said.  

After greetings at the Town House on the 28th, the group will have “a formal dinner” at the Concord Art Association, followed by an evening ceremony back at the Town House. 

“It’s at eight in the evening, so that it’s nine o’clock in the morning in Japan,” he said, “and it’s a Sunday here, so it’s a Monday and a workday in Japan.” 

Lawson said the last time an official Concord delegation visited Nanae — about a three-hour drive from Sapporo and 25 minutes from Hakodate — was in 2017.  

“At that time, we gave the town of Nanae a weathervane with a Minute Man on it. It is similar to one you might see if you’re at Verrill Farm,” he said. In return, Nanae “named a road after us,” and its mayor presented the Concordians with an indigenous robe now framed upstairs at the Town House.  

Select Board Member Mark Howell said that like Lawson, he had the privilege of joining Concord’s 2017 delegation.  

“It was the 60th anniversary of Nanae as a township, and we got to participate in that event,” Howell said. “And as Mike was saying, it is very meaningful and this is an important relationship, and I look forward to welcoming the citizens of Nanae to Concord again this year.” 

Lawson also noted the relationship manifests itself in ways besides the formal delegation exchanges.  

The Concord-Nanae Network has also set up an endowment used “to have a recent graduate of the high school come to Japan for a year and teach English, learn Japanese. They’re given a small allowance, a house and a car.”  

The current Concord emissary to Nanae is Jack McCarthy. (See column.) Another past participant: Howell’s son. 

​​Massachusetts and Japan have been sister states since 1990, but at least one Concordian’s relationship to Hokkaido well predates that bond, according to the Network: Among the contributions to Japan of Concord’s William Wheeler, who served as the second president of Sapporo Agricultural College — later Hokkaido University: Barn designs, civil engineering work, and the introduction of the Concord grape to Hokkaido in 1876.   

The Select Board, at the October 10 meeting, approved a proclamation renewing the sister city pact. It recognizes that “Concord and Nanae have successfully promoted mutual exchanges in education and culture since 1992 and sister cities since 1997,” and that “the deepening of our friendship [has] benefited our citizens and contributed to a broader understanding between our nations.” 

As for Concordians’ next journey to its Japanese counterpart, “We don’t know whether we’re going to go back in 2024 or 2025, but certainly we’ll be going back again,” Lawson said, adding that he hoped members of the Select Board might join the trip.  

“I want to go,” said the Board’s Terri Ackerman. “Sign me up.” 

Ackerman did caution Lawson to think carefully about the possibility of scheduling a trip for 2025, when Concord will be deep in its crowd-drawing observance of the 250th anniversary of the start of the Revolutionary War.  

Lawson said the trips typically take place in October, “so hopefully, we will have calmed down from the April event.” 

Joked Board Chair Henry Dane, “In 2025, every person who leaves town for any purpose will be to our benefit.”