Three Bellingham runners will represent the city in the Wakashio Marathon on Sunday in Bellingham’s sister city Tateyama, Japan.
Ron Miyatake, Drew Phillips and Laural Ringler were sent by the Bellingham Sister City Association to participate in the race, experience home stays and further connect the two cities.
Phillips hosted Hideki Matsunaga, one of two Japanese runners from Tateyama, to participate in September’s Bellingham Bay Marathon, and the two hope to reconnect this weekend.
“It was an incredible experience to host Hideki,” Phillips said. “My family knows no Japanese, so we used Google Translate and a lot of pantomime to communicate, but connected really well.”
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Bellingham and Tateyma have been sister cities since 1958 – two years after President Dwight D. Eisenhower created the people-to-people organization for intercultural understanding. Bellingham has seven sister cities: Tateyama; Cheongju, South Korea; Nakhodka, Russia; Port Stephens, Australia; Punta Arenas, Chile; Tsetserleg, Mongolia; and Vaasa, Finland.
Ringler and her family also have been active in the sister cities program, hosting a Punta Arenas high school student for three months.
The runners will carry greetings from Bellingham Mayor Kelli Linville to their meeting with Tateyama Mayor Kenichi Kanamaru.