The Canberra Nara relationship has a long history, with the first of many exchanges occurring almost three decades ago. A grassroots movement involving a number of key individuals and organisations in Nara and Canberra evolved to become a formal sister city relationship between the ACT Government and the Nara Municipal Government in 1993.
A key person instrumental in the first contact between Canberra and Nara was Father Tony Glynn, an Australian Marist Brothers Priest who lived in Nara following the Second World War. His tireless efforts helped to establish the foundations for future exchange. Father Glynn was highly regarded by the Nara community. Upon his death in 1994, a group of Nara citizens made a film about his life and work and a memorial hall was built in his name.
The genesis of community ties between Canberra and Nara were through school-to-school exchange programs. These ties swiftly broadened to include a wide variety of exchanges. Today a vibrant relationship with Nara exists with links between schools, cultural and sporting organisations, Rotary clubs, professional associations, businesses and government.
Signing of the Proclamation
The sister-city relationship was proposed and sponsored by the ACT Chamber of Commerce and Industry, in conjunction with the Nara Chamber of Commerce. It was considered fitting that Canberra, Australia’s newest and one of the world’s youngest capital cities should be twinned with Nara, one of Japan’s oldest capital cities.
Citizens representing both cities lobbied to bring about the sister city relationship including Mr Ryuji Sakamoto of the Nara Chamber of Commerce and Mr John Louttit of the ACT & Region Chamber of Commerce & Industry.
The official proclamation was signed by Chief Minister Rosemary Follett, on 26 October 1993. The proclamation was formalised the following year when Yasunori Ohkawa, Mayor of Nara, led a delegation of 140 Nara officials and citizens to Canberra, to formally sign the agreement to twin the two cities.
Canberra Nara Sister City Relationship
In the ensuing years the cities of Canberra and Nara have further strengthened their relationship through a variety of exchange activities. This has included community activities such as youth soccer and basketball exchanges, touch football exhibitions, an active teacher and student exchange program and exchanges in cultural, business, professional and other fields. There has also been an active program of community events.
The sister-city relationship has seen several milestones in its decade and a half. One notable milestone was the creation of the Canberra-Nara Park in Lennox Gardens. The citizens of Nara raised $100,000 for the development of the park, as well as constructing and shipping over two of the largest stone lanterns ever made in Japan. These lanterns, together with a large wooden gate feature prominently in the park. The then ACT Chief Minister Ms Kate Carnell and Deputy Mayor of Nara Mr Hiromu Kiriki officially opened Canberra Nara Park on 9 October 1999.
2003 marked the relationship’s 10th anniversary. A large delegation of Nara’s citizens attended, and events included a fun-run, Civic reception and cultural performances. The celebrations also included the first Candle Festival, which has since become an annual and very popular event.
Also in 2003, in the wake of the Canberra bushfires of that year, the Nara City Government and Nara City Council very generously donated $150,000 to the ACT Bushfire Appeal. The donation, which included contributions from local citizens, was a testament to the goodwill and depth of the relationship. During the 10th anniversary celebrations, a plaque expressing thanks from the citizens of Canberra was unveiled in the Canberra Nara Park.
Nara is the capital of Nara Prefecture, on the southern end of the island of Honshu, near Osaka. From 710 to 784, Nara was the first capital of Japan. Nara, meaning “Level Land’ occupies the great basin of what was Yamato, the ‘Land of Great Peace’. Nara is a serene and beautiful city popular with tourists from within Japan and around the world.
As a result of its ancient and noble past, Nara continues to display a wealth of historical and cultural legacies for all to enjoy. Nara has the honour of preserving the world’s oldest wooden structure at Horyuji Temple and the world’s largest wooden structure, the Todaiji Temple. The Todaiji Temple is the home of the 49 ft high Great Buddha. It took seven years to amass the nation’s entire supply of copper to cast the impressive statue.
The city’s landmark is the five-storied pagoda of Kofukuji Temple. The pagoda, rebuilt in 1426, is Japan’s second highest. The Yakushiji Temple is another symbol of Nara, the exquisite three-storied East Pagoda built in 730 gives an illusion of being six-storied, and is thought by many to be the most graceful structure in Japan.
Despite continued population increases, predominantly driven by Nara’s growth as a dormitory community for nearby Osaka, industrial development is subjected to spirited opposition. Nara is a historical, culturally important and highly revered city throughout Japan and development proposals usually attract objections on heritage grounds.
Nara has eight sites on the United Nation’s World Heritage list: the temples Todaiji, Kofukuji Gangoji, Yakushiji, Toshodaiji, the Kasuga Grand Shrine, Kasuga-yama Hill Primeval Forest and the Heijo Palace Site.
Nara’s serene temples and shrines are surrounded by beautiful gardens. Nara Park, more popularly called ‘Deer Park’, covers 525 hectares in central Nara and is famous for over 1,000 deer wandering through the park.
The city of Nara specializes in making sumi (ink stones) and calligraphy brushes. Light to medium manufacturing industries, agricultural produce such as rice, fresh groceries and flowers, pet fish, carp and Japanese trout and forest products are all important to the Nara economy. Nara is still popular primarily as a highly visited tourist area of Japan and is renowned for its traditional crafts.
The people of Nara celebrate many festivals and ceremonies during the year. One of the most spectacular is the Grass-burning Ceremony at Mt Wakakusa, when the surrounding hills and grasslands are set alight. The Water-drawing Ceremony at Nigatsudo Hall and the Lantern-lighting Festival at Kasuga Grand Shrine are also quite breathtaking, while the more recent addition of the Nara Candle festival is mirrored in Canberra’s own festival in October of each year.
Contact details for the Canberra Nara Sister City secretariat:
Chief Minister and Cabinet Directorate
Canberra Nara Sister City secretariat
GPO Box 158
Canberra ACT 2601
Canberra Nara Centre
Cnr Constitution Ave & London Circuit
Canberra City ACT 2601
Telephone: +61 13 22 81 (International)
Facebook: Canberra-Nara Facebook Page