In 1959 a huge typhoon raged through Yamanashi Prefecture in Japan. It caused a great loss of human life, livestock, houses and farm ground. Iowa Sergeant Richard Thomas, who had been stationed in Yamanashi while serving in the U.S. Army, heard of the disaster and asked the people of Iowa to help. As a result, Iowans donated 35 breeding hogs and 100,000 bushels of corn to help the Japanese people recover from the difficult situation.
This act of humanity turned into an act of friendship. Iowa and Yamanashi have been joined in the Iowa Sister State program since 1960, and have been exchanging groups of citizens, business people, students and farmers on educational visits over the years. In 1993 when floods hit Iowa, Yamanashi Prefecture sent $300,000 to help in relief efforts.
Yamanashi state in Japan has suffered significant damage
In the winter of 2014, Yamanashi has received an enormous amount of snow, destroying parts of their agricultural sector, collapsing greenhouses, buildings, grape arbors, etc. Homes and roads were damaged. Fruit trees and livestock were lost as well this winter. Current estimates are $168 million in damage. A February storm that dumped more than 3 feet of snow on Yamanashi was the worst the state has seen in more than a century of recordkeeping.
Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad is encouraging Iowans to help. "I urge all Iowans who are able to assist our friends in Yamanashi to do so," Branstad said last week. "In 1993 the government of Yamanashi Prefecture helped us out tremendously. Today, Iowans have the opportunity to help Yamanashi in kind though the relief fund set up by the Iowa Sister States program."
Iowa Sister States is now accepting donations to help farmers and others in Yamanashi. "While we may not be able to raise $300,000 we do want to raise a sizeable amount to send to Yamanashi on behalf of the citizens of Iowa," says Branstad. Details of the fund are at the Iowa Sister States website. You can mail a check payable to Yamanashi Committee-Iowa Sister States or donate via PayPal link on the ISS website. Mailing address for donations is Iowa Sister States, Yamanashi Relief Fund, 200 E. Grand Ave., Des Moines, Iowa 50309.
Iowa Sister States organization has set up a relief fund
"Since 1960 Iowa and Yamanashi have participated in countless exchanges in various fields such as education, art, music, aging, medical agriculture and sports," notes Branstad. Numerous life-long bonds have been formed between people. Besides forming a sister state, that single act of Iowans helping the Japanese people many years ago changed U.S.-Japan relations and eased tensions between the two countries. Today this translates into real numbers. Japan is the U.S.'s fourth largest trading partner. In particular, based on 2012 figures, Japan is Iowa's third largest trading partner.
Iowa Sister States is an organization that links Iowa economically and culturally with states in other countries. Iowa Sister States manages this partnership program that the State of Iowa has with nine different countries. To learn more about ISS, visit the website, join the agency's Facebook page or follow on Twitter @IASisterStates.