MONTANA – Governor Steve Bullock and Kumamoto, Japan Governor Ikuo Kabashima joined together Tuesday for a celebration in the Montana Capitol Rotunda to honor 35 years of friendship, trade, and cultural exchange.
Montana and Kumamoto established their sister-state relationship back in 1982. The two states have a long and meaningful relationship which has helped to grow trade, tourism, and educational exchanges.
“It was former U.S. Senator and Ambassador to Japan Mike Mansfield who suggested Montana and Kumamoto establish this friendship, saying ‘one of the best ways to bring about better understanding is through exchanges of all kinds,’” Governor Bullock said. “For 35 years, our two states have developed a deep understanding of the importance of trade and cultural exchange in a way that would make Senator Mansfield proud, and has served both of our states well.”
Japan is one of Montana’s top trading partners in manufactured goods such as optics and pasta, as well as bulk wheat, tourism and education. In fact, Montana’s Kumamoto trade office is the only such office we maintain with another country.
“Since becoming sister states, Montana and Kumamoto have built a steadfast friendship and accomplished many things together,” said Governor Kabashima. “We have both sent and hosted sister-state delegations as well as exchange students, and we have also enjoyed a wide-ranged of exchanges in various fields such as business, academia, and culture.”
Gov. Kabashima and 20 Japanese dignitaries will tour Montana for three days, including stops in Missoula, Helena and Bozeman.
- Japan was Montana’s second-largest trading partner in 2016, with total sales of approximately $305 million which includes commodity products, agricultural goods, tourism visitation, and educational exchanges.
- In 2016, the top three commodities Montana exported to Japan were: inorganic chemicals (silicon for solar panels); cereals, flour and starches (mainly pasta); and chemical products.
- In 2016, Montana imported about $13.3 million in commodities from Japan, mostly iron and steel, machinery and fabrics.
- Students from Japan make up 6 percent of Montana’s foreign exchange students.
- Visitors from Japan are among Montana’s top-10 international tourist countries.
- The Missoula Children’s Theater has a 20-year exchange relationship with Japan.
- In 2012, the Museum of the Rockies and Mifune Dinosaur Museum in Kumamoto launched a sister-museum relationship. The two collaborate on research and exhibits.
- On July 22, 1982 Montana and Kumamoto officially began their sister-state relationship.