The Chattanooga Tono Friendship Committee (Chatono) announced that a delegation of 10 Chattanoogans led by Mayor Andy Berke has been invited to Tono, Japan by Mayor Toshiaki Honda to participate in a signing ceremony coinciding with Tono’s largest annual festival, the Tono Matsuri, on Sept. 15.
Coming on the heels of successful exploratory delegations from Chattanooga in September 2016 and Tono in January 2017, this new relationship is the culmination of over 30 years of student exchanges between the two cities.
Since 1990, Chattanooga and Tono have exchanged high school and junior high students in an annual exchange program.
Officials said, "Through this historic occasion, Chattanooga and Tono seek to use this new sister city relationship to promote exchanges in government, business, and tourism."
Those also taking part Sept. 15-18 are:
Maura Sullivan Chief Operating Officer, City of Chattanooga
James McKissic Director, Office of Multicultural Affairs, City of Chattanooga
Karen Claypool President, Chattanooga Sister City Association
Strat Parrott Vice-President for Tono, Japan, Chattanooga Sister City Association & Chair, Chattanooga Tono Friendship Committee
Linda Allen Vice-Chair, Chattanooga Tono Friendship Committee
Parker Allen Vice-Chair, Chattanooga Tono Friendship Committee
Louisa Mesich Advisor, Chattanooga Tono Friendship Committee
Larry Mesich citizen of Chattanooga, TN
Martha Levardsen citizen of Chattanooga, TN (
The Chattanooga Tono Friendship Committee was established in 2015 as a grassroots initiative to deepen ties between the cities of Chattanooga, Tennessee, USA and Tono, Iwate, Japan.
Officials said, "Through countless personal experiences of not just the students themselves, but also the host families, friends, and others associated with the program, several citizens of both Chattanooga and Tono have developed a deep interest in each other’s homeland and culture.
"Based on a relationship of friendship and trust built from years of international exchange, the Chattanooga Tono Friendship Committee was established to create a sister city relationship between Chattanooga and Tono, facilitate continuation of our successful student exchanges, and spearheading efforts to deepen ties in the fields of culture, business, tourism, and other mutually beneficial areas.
"Thanks to the support of the Chattanooga Sister City Association, the Tono Education & Culture Foundation, and our membership consisting of motivated volunteers, we play an active role in promoting Chattanooga-Tono relations."