Mr. Mitsuo Shikano, founder of the Student Exchange Program between the City of Castlegar and its sister city Embetsu, Japan, passed away on June 2, 2009 at the age of 81.
In 1989, representatives of the City of Castlegar and Selkirk College visited Embetsu to sign a Sister City agreement. The Student Exchange Program between Castlegar and its sister city Embetsu, Japan, has been operating with great success since 1998. Every year since then, there has been a group of grade seven and grade eight students either coming to Castlegar or going to Embetsu.
Curt Kutschera, exchange host and member of the Castlegar-Embetsu Educational Exchange Committee (CEEEC), which is responsible for facilitating the program, believes it has benefited both communities in many ways. “Approximately 50 students from Castlegar and 50 students from Embestu have been involved in the exchange so far,” says Kutschera. “The program provides a valuable opportunity for the youth of each community to learn about the culture and customs of the other. The trip can be life-changing.”
There have also been adult exchanges between the two cities on a periodic basis. In 2006, Mayor Lawrence Chernoff joined the delegation to Embetsu to represent the City of Castlegar. In August of 2008, Embetsu was able to send a delegation of seven people which included Mayor Kawashima.
The Student Exchange Program is supported by grants from a fund established by Mr. Mitsuo Shikano, who was born in Embetsu; a town located on the northern tip of the island of Hokkaido, Japan. Each student's expenses are partially subsidized from the interest raised on a loan provided by Mr. Shikano in 1998. Mr. Shikano wanted to reinforce the relationship of goodwill and understanding between the young people of Castlegar and Embetsu.
“The passing of Mr. Shikano is a blow to the exchange program,” explains Kutschera. “He was a catalyst for this program on both sides and he supported both sides financially. We feel a duty to ensure that the program keeps going successfully in his memory, since he put so much effort into getting it started.”
The close relationship between Castlegar and Embetsu originally grew from the association between Selkirk College and Aoyama Technical College in Tokyo, which was owned by Mr. Shikano. Cultural exchanges between post-secondary students from the two institutions started in 1987.
Mr. Shikano is survived by his wife Junko Shikano and two daughters, Fumiko Suzuki and Kuniko Hasegawa and grandchildren.
First published on June 18, 2009