The City of Evansville has had an official, formal Sister City relationship with Tochigi City, Japan, since July 19, 1999. Tochigi was chosen to be Evansville’s Japanese Sister City because of similarities in the communities such as population, active industrial base, location on a river, climate, and reputation as a great place to raise a family. Through numerous visits over the past 11 years, the bonds between our communities have grown strong. Business relationships have expanded. Educational and cultural exchanges have flourished. Acquaintances have turned into friendships.
About Tochigi City
Tochigi City is located within the state of Tochigi (Tochigi-ken) north of Tokyo, Japan. Although a somewhat rural city, Tochigi City is considered a “very good place to raise a family,” very much like Evansville. The city originated as a warehousing location for Tokyo via the Uzuma River. Many of these ancient warehouses are still standing and converted or renovated for use today. Various festivals are still held annually along the Uzuma River in honor of its long and important role in the development of Tochigi City.
Tochigi City currently has an estimated population of 84,426 (41,374 men – 43,052 women) with a density of about 680 persons per square kilometer and with a total area of 122.06 square kilometer. (In comparison, Evansville has approximately 121,582 in population with a density of 1,154 persons per square kilometer and a total area of 105.6 square kilometers).
Tochigi City lies along the 36th parallel (36 degrees 30 minutes N) whereas Evansville the 37th (37 degrees 58minutes N). The temperature, general rainfall and seasons of both cities are similar in nature.
Although Tochigi City is an old city in location and population, the current city area and structure was founded on April 1, 1937. Like Evansville and Angel Mounds, Tochigi City too, has roots to the ancient past. In the Hoshino area, archaeological excavations have revealed residences from the Paleolithic era. The Hoshino museum preserves these important historical remains for visitors and tourists to see.
Sister City Relationship in Action
On November 6, 2005, an F3 tornado ripped through the City of Evansville, claiming more than 20 lives and damaging or destroying hundreds of houses, including dozens in the Eastbrook Mobile Home Park.
Our community’s response to the tornado was phenomenal. FEMA coordinating officer Brad Gair was quoted in the Evansville Courier & Press as saying, “I don't think I've ever seen a community of people come out so quickly to help each other. All communities come together after a disaster, but this one is exceptional.” He also commented on the hundreds of thousands of dollars that quickly poured in, including from a local telethon. “Just having a telethon that quickly was amazing,” said Gair, “Then to raise that kind of money ... That's unusual.”
Though half-way around the world, the response from our friends in Tochigi City proved that they are truly a part of our community. Condolences and well wishes from people in our Sister City began arriving extremely quickly after the tornado struck. And when Habitat for Humanity of Evansville announced plans to develop the New Haven Subdivision, building new homes for many of those affected by the tornado, our friends in Tochigi City sent a donation to put toward the construction of one of those homes.
When a delegation from Tochigi City, including Mayor Yoshiyuki Higano, visited Evansville in September 2009, they had the opportunity to visit the New Haven subdivision and speak to a number of residents and Habitat for Humanity officials. This was a very moving experience for all involved, with more than a few tears, hugs and smiles. This exemplifies the strength and value of our bond as Sister Cities.
Sister City Relationship Timeline
- April 1998: The groundwork for the City of Evansville-Tochigi City Sister City relationship was laid when Ken Robinson, Executive Director of Vision 2000 (precursor to the Economic Development Coalition of Southwest Indiana) visited Tochigi City and met with Mayor Otoichiro Suzuki.
- November 1998: A delegation from Tochigi City visited Evansville. A “Friendship Agreement” between the two cities was signed during the visit.
- April 1999: Evansville Mayor Frank McDonald II led a delegation to Tochigi City.
- July 1999: Mayor Suzuki led a 21-member delegation to Evansville. Mayor Suzuki was accompanied by performers from Tochigi Prefecture : Nikko Toshogu Gagaku musicians and the Nihon Buyo Dancers. The official Sister City agreement was signed by Mayor McDonald and Mayor Suzuki during this visit on July 19, 1999.
- October 1999: A three-member Tochigi Education delegation visited Evansville, touring middle, high and post-secondary schools and meeting with Evansville Vanderburgh School Corporation officials.
- April 2000: A 24-member delegation from Evansville visited Tochigi. Visit included reciprocal signing of Sister City agreement with Evansville Mayor Russ Lloyd, Jr.
- July 2000: Evansville hosted a delegation of 33 from Tochigi as part of the Grass Roots Summit. Evansville provided home stays for the participants. Participants and hosts visited New Harmony and Angel Mounds State Historic Site, and saw a performance of “Young Abe Lincoln” at the Lincoln Amphitheatre along with other scheduled events.
- September 2000: Ken Robinson visited Tochigi during the Midwest U.S. Conference.
- 2002-2003 School Year: Indiana teacher taught English in Tochigi.
- August 2002: Ken visited Tochigi during Midwest U.S. Conference.
- October 2002: Nancy Deig visited Tochigi as part of Grass Roots Summit.
- November 2002: Evansville Philharmonic Youth Orchestra visited Tochigi and performed at venues in both Tochigi and Tokyo.
- December 2002: Tochigi Girls Choir and Orchestra visited Evansville. Performances culminated in First Night Celebration (New Year’s Eve) at The Centre.
- 2004: Ken Robinson visited Tochigi during Midwest US Japan Conference.
- August 2005: Evansville Mayor Jonathan and Patricia Weinzapfel visited Tochigi as part of the Indiana Governor’s Trade Mission Group.
- September 2006: Yasuko Suzuki and Shizuko Matsuzaki from Tochigi visited Evansville and attended a Sister City Committee meeting.
- April 2007: Delegation from the Tochigi Prefecture’s Rotary Global Study Exchange (GSE) program visited Evansville. Delegation included the Executive Director of the Tochigi City Wind Orchestra, Ms. Masako Murakami, who was also instrumental in the initial “Friendship City” agreements between Tochigi and Evansville.
- May/June 2007: Mayor Weinzapfel led an Evansville delegation to Tochigi as part of a two-week Access Asia Now Trade Mission to Malaysia and Japan. Mayor Weinzapfel and Tochigi Mayor Yoshiyuki Higano reaffirmed the Sister City relationship by signing a proclamation, and exchanged formal gifts commemorating the relationship. Knowing Mayor Higano’s love of baseball, Mayor Weinzapfel also presented him with a personal gift: an Evansville Otters jersey with “Higano” embroidered on the back.
- April 2008: Delegation including members of the Tochigi City International Exchange Association (TCIEA) visited Evansville.
- September 2009: Approx. 60 guests from Tochigi City visited Evansville. This dual delegation included Tochigi Mayor Higano and other government officials, as well as the Tochigi City Wind Orchestra. Mayor Weinzapfel and Mayor Higano officially re-affirmed the Sister City Agreement. Mayor Weinzapfel proclaimed September 21, 2009, to be “Tochigi City Day” in the City of Evansville and presented Mayor Higano with a Key to the City of Evansville. The Tochigi City Wind Orchestra performed at The Victory Theatre in Evansville; and Mr. Yanami Sakahashi (conductor of the Tochigi City Wind Orchestra and Marrioner Flute Orchestra, flutist with the Tokyo Philharmonic Symphonic Orchestra and musical professor) was a guest conductor at the Evansville Philharmonic Orchestra’s 75th anniversary opening classical concert. The whirlwind visit included tours of the University of Southern Indiana, Evansville Museum of Arts, History & Science, Reitz Home Museum, Downtown Historic District, Public Art Walking Tour, IU’s Jacobs School of Music, Mesker Park Zoo & Botanic Garden, Angel Mounds State Historic Site, Goebel Soccer Complex, University of Evansville, Toyota Motor Manufacturing Indiana, and Berry Plastics. An unexpected highlight of the visit was an impromptu trip by Mayor Weinzapfel and Mayor Higano’s delegation to historic Bosse Field, which delighted our baseball-loving Japanese guests.