Larry Jones

Recently, my Sister Cities Council colleague, Dale Durham, and I had the privilege of sharing with young people in our community who are taking part in a joint program offered by the Library Teen Summer Reading Program and Payne County Master Gardeners about the International Friendship Garden at the Stillwater Community Center. I want to share with you some of what we shared with them as well as our answers to their very good questions. 

The garden was constructed by 16 landscape gardeners from Stillwater’s sister city, Kameoka, Kyoto, Japan, as a gift from the citizens of Kameoka to the citizens of Stillwater. Identifying the city as Kameoka, Japan is like identifying our city as Stillwater, USA. Since there’s more than one Stillwater, we need to identify the state as well. Kameoka is the city, Kyoto is the prefecture, and Japan is the country. 

Well before leaving for Stillwater, the gardeners had purchased and shipped more than 20

 tons of materials for the garden which arrived right on schedule and the gardeners set about work on the garden. The gardeners each have their own business in Kameoka, so they are in competition with one another there, but here they worked together like a well-oiled machine here and after two weeks the garden was complete. 

It’s a dry, natural, viewing garden, dry in that it has no water feature, natural because it falls in that category of gardens which includes natural, temple, and tea gardens, and viewing because one views in from outside the garden because there’s no walking trails through the garden. Plant life has been modified to suit the Oklahoma climate. Clearly Japanese landscape garden are made by humans but with an effort to make them look like a scene from nature in miniature, so a nice garden might look somewhat like a scene one enjoyed while walking a trail in the mountains. 

The colors are very much like what one would see while walking in the mountains or a shady walking trail in a city park with green, brown and gray being the dominant colors. In addition to questions about gardens we were asked about the sister cities relationship. We were asked what a sister cities relationship is all about and our response was that it’s a relationship between cities in different countries to build bridges of friendship, learn about one another’s culture and customs, engage in educational exchange and primarily for larger cities, engage in industrial development. Another question was how our particular affiliation with Kameoka came about. 

The answer is that after the State of Oklahoma and Kyoto Prefecture entered into a sister states relationship city officials in Kameoka expressed a desire to form a sister cities relationship with a city in Oklahoma. After getting information about Kameoka, people at the capital in OKC expressed the opinion that Stillwater looked like a good fit. When Stillwater officials were asked if there was an interest, the response was a definite affirmative. 

The relationship was formally entered into on Nov. 3, 1985, and it has been a wonderful affiliation since that time. Dale and I had a great time sharing with the young people who were brought to the community center and we thank the people from the library and the master gardeners program for giving us the opportunity to about the International Friendship Garden and our sister cities relationship with Kameoka.

Larry Jones is a member of the Stillwater Sister Cities Council. 

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