Chamber greeting delegates from Japan in 1986.
President Dwight Eisenhower created the sister city relationship between Matsumoto, Japan, and Salt Lake City in 1958, one of the first such programs in the world. Eisenhower stated at the time that more good will could be accomplished on a people to people basis than could by governments.
Matsumoto was chosen because of its similarities to Salt Lake City. Both were about the same population. While the most distinctive building in Salt Lake City was the LDS Temple, the most significant structure in Matsumoto was the famous Matsumoto Castle. Both were in similar sections of the downtown. Both cities had a large university located on their eastern boundaries, both cities were close to a body of water, and both relied on tourism.
Ball wrote to Fumio Hongo, president of the Matsumoto Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and to Mayor Fuhaharta of the city of Matsumoto. They responded with a strong desire to reactive the sister city program. They invited the Chamber to visit Japan, and a reciprocal invitation was extended to the citizens of Matsumoto.
Early in 1974 Ball led a delegation of Utah business leaders to visit both sister cities. Business meetings and business appointments were also arranged in Hong Kong and Singapore. This started a strong relationship that endures. Ball said Fumio Hongo became his best friend. Ball and his wife, Joyce, visited Japan seventeen times and when Ball retired from the Chamber, he was made an honorary citizen and honorary mayor of Matsumoto. A large parade and banquet was held in his honor.
Matsumoto citizens visited Salt Lake City on July 23, 1974. A large float was built for the delegation to ride in the huge 24th of July Parade during the Days of ‘47 festivities. Announcers along the route were told to teach parade goers to shout “Ohio go simus” (good morning) to the riders on the float. The Japanese guests were impressed. Two years later, Ball received a letter requesting a return visit from the delegation from Japan. They asked him if Salt Lake could again arrange the very special parade for them. He said he could do that, but it was imperative that they come on the 24th of July.
Thousands of Japanese friends from Matsumoto City and Nagano Prefecture (state) have visited Utah since those early days. Every year a large delegation visits during the Days of ‘47 celebration. Several dozen junior high school students come for an extensive study of Utah history and English language. Gwen Springmeyer, an early and active member of the Sister City Committee, provided the leadership and organization of the student’s visit each year. Gwen and her husband, Bob, were actually married in Matsumoto. A Shinto priest performed a beautiful ceremony early one morning high on a mountainside.
Salt Lake City schools exchanged student art exhibits with counterparts in Matsumoto and the city hosted a sell-out concert in the Mormon Tabernacle for a concert by the world famous Suzuki School of Music, headquartered in Matsumoto. The late Dr. Shinichi Suzuki was world famous for his “mother tongue” method of violin instruction. A visit to the Suzuki school is always a highlight of any visit to Matsumoto.
Visits to Quezon City in the Philippines were also arranged but the relationship was never as strong as desired. Utahns of Filipino descent who were on the Sister City Committee were committed and active, but it was difficult to get great cooperation from the citizens in Quezon.