Yoshio Yamamoto, as Mayor of Toyokawa, Japan had a dream. Looking back at the ruin and devastation as a result of World War II, Mayor Yamamoto began seeking a way to establish a peaceful future of international understanding between Japan and the rest of the world. His dream came to fruition with the signing of a Sister City relationship between Toyokawa, Japan and Cupertino California in 1978. Cupertino City Councilman Dan O’Keefe visited Toyokawa to sign a Declaration officially establishing the Sister City relationship in Mayor Yamamoto’s office on December 19, 1978.
Key to Mayor Yamamoto’s vision would be the education of generations to come and thus the idea for a student exchange program was conceived. In September 1979 the first annual student delegation of six middle school students from Toyokawa visited Cupertino. The first delegation of eight Cupertino middle school students visited Toyokawa in 1983. Over the years, the size of delegations has grown. The delegations of today are typically 12-16 students plus chaperones. Each autumn, a delegation of middle school students from Toyokawa travel to Cupertino with their adult chaperones.
The Cupertino Sister City Organization, the Cupertino Union School District and the City of Cupertino host the delegates and chaperones for several busy days of cultural experiences. All are paired with their counter parts selected from the Cupertino Union School District middle schools and are hosted in homes in the community. In turn, each spring, seventh and eighth-grade students from Cupertino are chosen to visit Toyokawa with their chaperones, and are hosted by the local Toyokawa families. The very successful student exchange program has been in place since its inception in 1979.
The first adult delegation consisting of twelve Cupertino citizens visited Toyokawa in June 1979. In 1979 Cupertino also sent 25 coast redwoods trees to Toyokawa as friendship gesture. Adult delegation exchanges between Cupertino and Toyokawa take place each fifth anniversary of the sister city relationship. The delegations consist of city officials, community leaders and local citizens.
The first annual Cupertino Cherry Blossom Festival was held in 1983 at what is now the Cupertino Oaks shopping center. After several years, the festival was moved to Memorial Park in Cupertino. This is a very appropriate setting as it is the home of 200 cherry trees gifted to Cupertino by Toyokawa in 1983 commemorating the fifth anniversary of the sister city relationship. This two-day festival features all day Japanese cultural displays and stage entertainment, free to the public. Additionally, Japanese food is available for purchase. All the food booths are operated by various local non-profit organizations as their fundraiser.
In 2011 a Japanese Disaster Relief Fundraising Program headed by the Sister City Organization raised $28,500. The money was sent to Toyokawa for the Japanese earthquake-tsunami relief effort.
In 2012, to celebrate the Japan-U.S. Washington D.C. Cherry Blossom Centennial, through a nationwide cherry blossom tree planting initiative, the Consulate General of Japan will present the Cupertino-Toyokawa Sister Cities Organization with another tree during the annual Cherry Blossom Festival.
As the cherry trees in Memorial Park have flourished and grown over the years, so have the bonds between Cupertino and Toyokawa and their citizens.