IRIS Executive Director Del Christensen was pleased to meet with Governor Shōmei Yokouchi of Yamanashi Prefecture, Japan as part of the 50th Anniversary Celebration of the Iowa- Yamanashi Sister State Partnership. Several activities on August 12 & 13 were held in Des Moines to recognize the 50th anniversary of the Iowa and Yamanashi Japan partnership and the 1959 Hog Lift that initiated this relationship.
In 1959, the people of Yamanashi Prefecture in central Japan suffered two significant typhoons in less than a month, devastating much of the prefecture’s agriculture sector. Iowa native, Master Sergeant Richard Thomas was working in public relations for the U.S. Air Force in Tokyo at the time. When he heard about the heavy damage to the livestock industry in Yamanashi prefecture, he considered arranging Iowa hogs to be sent to Yamanashi as an opportunity to help revive the devastated industry. He presented his plan to the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo and the “hog lift” began. Iowa farmers donated 36 lean meat hogs rounded up by the Iowa Corn Growers’ Association, and the U.S. Air Force agreed to supply a plane to fly the hogs to Japan. The animals were shipped on a cargo plane fitted with special crates and attended to by representatives from the Iowa Corn Growers’ Association. In 1961, Yamanashi gave Iowa a very large ceremonial brass bell to commemorate the generosity of Iowans who responded to the devastation inflicted on Yamanashi farmers.
Among the activities to commemorate this partnership was the rededication of the Bell of Peace and Friendship, a ceremonial Japanese bell located on the Iowa State Capitol grounds just west of the judicial building at 1111 E. Court Avenue. In addition to the bell rededication, Governor Yokouchi met with Iowa Governor Terry Branstad and other officials and took part in a ceremonial tree planting, tour of the Capitol and ringing of the Bell of Peace and Friendship. In addition to the official Japanese delegation, the visiting Kofu, Yamanashi band joined the Greater Des Moines Community Band in an evening concert in Des Moines. Kofu City in Japan has a long sister city relationship with Des Moines, Iowa.
On Saturday, August 13, the same Kofu band performed at the Iowa State Fair. In addition, Governors Branstad and Yokouchi and delegations reaffirmed the Sister State relationship, and participated together in the Iowa Governor’s Celebrity Charity Steer Show and Auction. It was a brief visit, but a wonderful opportunity to show Governor Yokouchi the friendship and charm that is Iowa.
Iowa Governor Terry Branstad (r) and Governor Shōmei Yokouchi (l) ring the Peace Bell at the rededication ceremony.