About

Our Story

The Sister Cities program was originally conceived as part of President Eisenhower’s People to People program. The affiliation between Bloomington and Asahikawa, Japan came about through the personal efforts of Alvin Keller. In 1960 as Director of Finance for the City of Bloomington, he sent copies of a brochure (“Bloomington Progress Report 1960”) to cities around the world, and in an accompanying letter requested similar materials in return.

A letter received in December 1960 by Mayor Robert McGraw from Mayor Yosokici Maeno of Asahikawa said, in part, “It is our honor to have received a letter and brochure which introduces your city and its municipal operation. We have also been looking forward to learn various status of cities. . .in foreign countries. We have even more studies to select a suitable city in the United States who wishes to become a sister city with us.”

That letter resulted in regular communication between leaders of the two cities, and on March 26, 1962, the Sister Cities affiliation between Bloomington and Asahikawa was formally proclaimed by Mayor McGraw and the city council.

Mayor Maeno and the Asahikawa council did the same on October 11, 1962. In March 1964, Bloomington resident Ned Cicciu was appointed chairperson and five other citizens, including Alvin Keller were asked to serve on the newly-created Sister Cities Committee.

On April 7, 1980, the Normal Town Council accepted an invitation to officially join Bloomington as a sister city to Asahikawa, formalizing a relationship that had, in fact, existed for years. The people of Asahikawa had already come to know Bloomington-Normal as one community.

The City of Asahikawa

Asahikawa is located on the northern island of Hokkaido and is the second largest city on Hokkaido with a population of 355,851.  Hokkaido receives considerable snow in the winter. It is the chief winter resort and sports area of Japan. Asahikawa is ringed by the Daisetsu Mountains, which provide for excellent skiing and climbing opportunities.  Three major rivers snake through Asahikawa. "The City of Rivers" has more than 700 bridges.  Asahikawa is home to the Asahiyama Zoo, which competes with the Ueno Zoo in Tokyo for most successful zoo in Japan.  Asahikawa is also known as one of Japan’s gourmet towns containing many restaurants.

Committee

Darren Sampson

Darren Sampson, Chairman
Employer: State Farm Insurance Co.
Member since 2012
High School Exchange Student 1984-85

Catrina Murphy

Catrina Murphy, Vice Chair, Interim Treasurer
Employer: Chestnut Health Systems
Member since 2014

Ken Ota

Ken Ota, Secretary
Employer: Alpha Graphics
Member since 2012
Japanese Saturday School Principal

Akiko Wilson

Akiko Wilson
Member since 2008

Cindy Hansen

Cindy Hansen
Member since 2009

Mary Anne Schierman

Mary Anne Schierman
Employer: McLean County Museum of History, retired
Member since 2005

Robert Harrison

Robert Harrison
Employer: Oakdale Junior High
Member since 2013

Sanae Ferrier

Sanae Ferrier
Employer: Heartland Community College
Member since 2010

Steven Campbell

Steven Campbell
Employer: Caterpillar, retired
Member since 2013

Toyoka Nishihara

Toyoka Nishihara
Employer: Language Interpretation Independent Contractor
Member since 2007

Noha Shawki

Noha Shawki
Member since 2016

Kyle Silver

Kyle Silver
Member since 2016

Meeting Minutes