Thanks to Lower Merion’s famous basketball export, most Philadelphians are familiar with the city of Kobe and its delicious eponymous beef. What you may not know is that Kobe and Philadelphia have been sister cities since October 17, 1986. This year, JASGP will be celebrating the 30th anniversary of our relationship at our Annual Meeting on November 15 at City Hall. Before the celebration, I thought it would be interesting to share a little background on both the city of Kobe and our relationship.
Back in the early ’80s, Kobe began work on Kobe Academic Park (think University City in Philly). The area has a heavy concentration of universities and Kobe hoped to facilitate the free exchange of ideas between researchers, students, and city officials. This focus on freedom led many to believe that the Liberty Bell would be a great symbol for this new endeavor, so Philadelphia presented Kobe with a replica in 1985. This new connection led to the creation of the formal Sister City relationship one year later.
Like its sister city, Kobe has played a major role in its country’s history. Kobe is part of the Kansai region, along with Osaka and Kyoto, which is in the second most populated part of Japan. Before the capital moved to Tokyo in the Tokugawa era, Kansai was the heart of Japanese commerce, culture and politics. Kobe became an international hub thanks to its port, one of the first opened (in 1868) to international trade to following the sakoku (closed country) period. As a port city, it has quite a few multicultural treasures: its Nankin-machi neighborhood is one of only 3 recognized Chinatowns in Japan, while Kitano-cho at the base of Mt. Rokko in northern Kobe is famous for its Western style mansions. Modern Kobe is famous for its luminare matsuri – a December light festival that commemorates the Hanshin Earthquake of 1995.
Both Philadelphia and Kobe are home to major ports and life science incubators. We have similar populations – both around 1.5 million residents. Kobe is famous for its sake brewing; Philadelphia for it’s beer brewing, and both cities have recently gained fame for their “foodie” culture — which goes beyond Kobe beef and cheesesteaks.
Over the coming months we’ll be introducing Kobe in greater detail. We hope you’ll consider joining us in the celebration at the Annual Meeting.