Largo & Kami City, Japan: Celebrating 55 Years as Sister Cities


Sister City Visit Ceremony
The City of Largo is proud of its Sister City relationship with Kami City, Japan, which has spanned 55 years and developed into a meaningful international friendship and cultural exchange that serves to benefit both communities through collaborative initiatives and opportunities.

HISTORY

The Sister City relationship between Largo and Kami City began in 1969 by Lions Club International, following an international training session hosted by the organization that was held in 1968. It was at this event that Lion George Brooks, a district governor and member of the St. Petersburg Lions Club, befriended Lion Yoshitami Kagawa, an incoming District Governor of the Takamatsu district of Japan, developing a relationship that would establish the Lions Club of Largo's first twin club with the Lions Club in then-Tosayamada, Japan, now known as Kami.
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On July 11, 1969, the Sister City agreements were signed by the Lions Clubs' of Largo and Tosayamada and the two respective cities. The signing ceremony took place in Tosayamada, Japan, following the first Lions International Convention in Tokyo. District Governor George Brooks brought a letter signed by the City of Largo’s Mayor Harry Powell, granting Mr. Brooks authority to sign the Sister City agreement on behalf of the City.  Lion Cliff Shaw signed for the Largo Lions Club.


The signing formalized relations between the City of Largo and Tosayamada, Japan (now Kami City), setting in motion more than a half-century of close bonds and regular visits by delegations from each city. This includes a vibrant student exchange program between Largo High School and Yamada High School in Kami that has sent hundreds of students between the two Sister Cities since 1992, providing opportunities to learn more about their respective cultures, customs, and languages.

Photo 1 (Mayor Thom Feaster)

The following timeline presents key dates over the 55-year history of the Sister City relationship:

 • July 11, 1969: The Sister City agreements are signed in Tosayamada between the City of Largo and the town of Tosayamada City (now Kami City) and both Lions Clubs.
 • 1971:  Tosayamada Mayor Yomi Noguchi and Lion Dr. Chikataka Hata make the first visit to Largo following the formation of the Sister City relationship.
1979: Lion Dr. Hata and Mayor Ono led a delegation to Largo on the 10th anniversary.
 • 1981: Lion George Feaster visits Tosayamada as the first representative from Largo to make the trip following the formalization of relations. He participated in the dedication and celebration of a new hospital in the area opened by Dr. Hata.
1982: The Tosayamada Lions Club sent the first exchange student, Miwa Kadota, to Largo. She was hosted by George Feaster’s family and other Largo Lions Club members.
1984: Largo Mayor George McGough leads a delegation of six other representatives from the community to Tosayamada.  The other visitors included former mayor of Largo Thom Feaster, who also served as President of the Largo Chamber of Commerce, Kenneth Whisenand (Administrator of Suncoast Osteopathic Hospital), Myra Haas (Editor of Largo Leader), and Largo residents Rosalee Jenkins, Bob Dodd, and Deloris Wallace. The guests stayed with host families in Tosayamada. This visit commemorated the 15th anniversary of the Sister City relationship and the 30th anniversary of Tosayamada's founding.
1989: Tosayamada sent 18 representatives and 16 drummers of the Yamada Daiko Drum Troupe to Largo in celebration of the 20th anniversary of the relationship.  The drummers performed at Walt Disney World and to audiences across Largo, including a final performance and celebration at Southwest Recreation Complex that was attended by several thousand people.  
 • 1990: The Yamada Daiko Drum Troupe returns to Largo for the opening celebration of the Pinellas Trail, invited by City Commissioner Jean Halverson.
 • 1991: Largo Vice Mayor James Pitts, Lion George Feaster, and others were invited to the U.S.-Japan International Goodwill Summit Conference by the Governor of the Kochi Prefecture.  During this trip, they visited Yamada High School to discuss developing a sister school relationship with Largo High School.
April 1992: Largo High School Principal Barbara Thornton and honor student Stacey Yoho visited Tosayamada and Yamada High School, sponsored by the Largo Lions Club and Largo High School.  During this visit, they signed a declaration proclaiming a sister school relationship with Yamada High School.
October 1992: Yamada High School’s Principal Tetsuo Odani and eight students made the first official visit from Yamada High School to Largo High School. They attended classes and stayed in host homes, developing many friendships.  Students and teachers were taken to Walt Disney World by the Largo Lions Club -- a tradition that has continued today.
March 1994: Nine students from Yamada High School, an English teacher, and a chaperon came to Largo for a visit.

June 1994: In celebration of the 25th Anniversary of the Sister City Relationship and Lions Club Twinning, 23 visitors, including City Commissioners Jean Halvorsen and Judy Dean, several local teachers, students from Largo High School, and others traveled to Tosayamada. During the visit, the Sister City and Lions Club Twinning agreements were renewed by delegates, with cherry trees planted and gifts exchanged to commemorate this anniversary.Photo 3 (Mayor Thom Feaster)September 1999: On the 30th Anniversary of the Sister City relationship, 24 residents of Tosayamada and eight Yamada Daiko Drummers visited Largo. The group was led by Mayor Takahiko Takeuchi, Dr. Hata, and Shane Yoshida. The trip included a visit to Largo City Hall, the City's recreational facilities, and Walt Disney World. Yamada Daiko Drummers performed for residents at Largo Mall, concluding their visit with a farewell dinner at the Sheraton Sand Key Hotel.
• October 2004: Lions George Feaster and Anne Scofield visited Tosayamada for the 35th anniversary.
• July 2005: Tosayamada Lions Club members Masafumi and Akiko Shikichi visited Largo to join in the City’s celebration of its 100th anniversary, touring the new public library.
• March 1, 2006: Tosayamada merged with the town of Kahoku and the village of Monobe, establishing the present-day city of Kami.
• January 2009: Six visitors from Kami City visited Largo to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Sister City relationship. They toured the City of Largo and participated in a signing ceremony of the covenant agreements, planted trees in Largo Central Park, and exchanged gifts.
• October 2011: Students from Yamada High School visited Largo and were hosted by families and had the opportunity to visit Walt Disney World, sponsored by the Largo Lions Club. The students visited many of the City's facilities during their visit.
• March 2015: Seven representatives from Largo traveled to Kami City, led by Lions George and Kim Feaster. They stayed with host families and had the opportunity to visit with Mayor Shoichi Hokoin, Lions Club President Akemi Oohashi, and Yamada High School students. The delegation from Largo had the opportunity to tour businesses in Kami, learn about the local election process, and enjoy the beautiful cherry blossoms.
• November 2019: Marking the 50th anniversary of the Sister City relationship, the City of Largo welcomed a large contingent from Kami City for a week of celebration. Mayor Shoichi Houkouin and 19 others arrived in Largo, beginning their visit with a welcome ceremony at the Largo Central Park Performing Arts Center. Proclamations between the two cities were signed, continuing the relationship into the future, and agreements between Largo High School and Yamada High School for the student exchange programs were renewed. The Largo Lions Club and Yamada Lions Club friendship covenant was also re-signed.

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Guests spent a day meeting staff and learning about the services provided by different departments of the City, including Largo Fire Rescue, Police, Recreation, Parks, and Arts, and the Largo Public Library. They concluded their City tour with a trip to Largo Central Park, where they enjoyed the vast, open green space and ended with a train ride. Other highlights included visits to local businesses, including Flutter FETTI®, the Palms of Largo, and dinner and karaoke at a local pub.


Sixteen host families accommodated delegates from Kami City during this visit, spending time exploring the beaches; enjoying local wildlife; touring nearby museums, botanical gardens, and the Clearwater Marine Aquarium; swimming with manatees in Crystal River; and sampling some great local seafood.

A farewell party was held at the Largo Golf Course clubhouse before our friends from Kami City departed.

• March/April 2024: Mayor Woody Brown led a delegation of 20 representatives from the City of Largo to Kami City on a visit commemorating the 55th anniversary of the Sister City relationship. Upon arrival, a tree-planting ceremony was held at Kochi University of Technology -- a decades-long tradition that symbolizes growth in the bonds shared between the two cities. This was followed immediately by a welcome ceremony to celebrate the 55-year history of the Sister City relationship, beginning with a performance by the Yamada High School Brass Band. Mayor Koichiro Yorimitsu of Kami City gave remarks welcoming guests and expressing gratitude for the continued devotion of this friendship. Covenant agreements between Kami City and the City of Largo were re-signed as were agreements between Largo High School and Yamada High School and the twin Lions Clubs. The ceremony concluded with a special performance by the Yamada Daiko Drum Troupe.

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On this visit, representatives from Largo were guided on a tour of Kami City, visiting local businesses and manufacturers, Kami City Library, historic shrines, agricultural areas, koi farms, and of course, City Hall. The delegation also visited important cultural and heritage sites to the people of Japan in the cities of Hiroshima, Himeji, Kochi, and Kyoto. 

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In the 55 years since the partnership was formalized with the signing of the covenant between the two cities, Largo and Kami have organized alternating visits every five years, sending delegates and visitors from each respective city to renew bonds, exchange gifts, share cultures, and seek out partnership opportunities to further grow this relationship.

50thSisterCity-2 - CopyTraveling more than 7,000 miles, visiting delegations to Largo have included government officials, including past and present mayors of Kami, council members, prefecture representatives, as well as Lions Club members, business owners, and residents. This cultural exchange includes a variety of activities that showcase Largo and the surrounding Tampa Bay area, with tours of City facilities, amenities such as parks and trails, local businesses, fishing trips, and visits to local museums and other notable attractions. The community helps make these visits memorable by hosting visitors in their homes during their stay in Largo.


ABOUT KAMI CITY

Tosayamada, Japan, which merged with the town of Kahoku and the village of Monobe in 2006 to form the city of Kami, located on Shikoku Island in southern Japan.
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Population: 24,821 people
Households: 13,047
Land Area: 207.7 square miles
 Economy: Agriculture and forestry-based (about 90% of Kami City is comprised of forests)
Top Agricultural Products: Lumber, chives, green onions, yuzu, and ginger
• Government: Mayor-Council, with an 18-member City Council
Mayor: Koichiro Yorimitsu, elected April 9, 2020
• Key Attractions: Ryugado Cave (one of Japan's three largest limestone caves), the Anpanman Museum, and Kagamino Park.

STUDENT EXCHANGE PROGRAM

In 1992, Largo High School and Yamada High School in Kami began student exchanges as part of this international bond, serving as an educational experience for hundreds of young students from Largo and Kami who have traversed the globe to learn more about the people, culture, and language of these distinct countries. The student exchange program has been a special defining characteristic of this Sister City relationship that has spanned generations. 

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This exchange, including the short-term study abroad program, between the two high schools is a valuable part of this relationship, offering an immersive experience of a different culture that presents numerous learning opportunities about the people and traditions found in Largo and Kami City.

55TH ANNIVERSARY VISIT TO KAMI CITY
On March 25, 2024, City of Largo Mayor Woody Brown and a group of business owners, service club members, and residents, embarked on a visit to our Sister City in Kami, Japan, celebrating the 55th anniversary of this special international partnership. The visit included a formal renewal of the Sister City relationship, an exchange of gifts, and a sharing of cultures as opportunities for community and economic development were also explored.

This milestone trip in 2024 saw new bonds formed and existing relationships strengthened as the City of Largo explored additional partnerships and collaborative initiatives to benefit our shared residents and businesses. Throughout the 55 years of history, Largo and Kami City have witnessed the profound impact of cross-cultural understanding and cooperation in our communities as a result of this exchange, exemplifying the power of international cooperation and friendship.

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The enduring sister-city relationship has influenced progress in Kami City, a rural mountainous community of about 26,000 people, and evolved into a rich cultural, educational, economic, and recreational experience that has contributed to overall global development and understanding.

To learn more about Kami City and connect with our Sister City, visit: Kami City Government Website

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Population Size

4th

Largest City in Tampa Bay

Acres of Park Land

4.5K

Largo Businesses