By Mike Dougherty
Vermont and Tottori, Japan, are officially sister states.
Govs. Phil Scott of Vermont and Shinji Hirai of the Tottori Prefecture signed a new interregional agreement last Wednesday. The document declares that both states share “strong bonds of friendship and trust” and aim to develop cultural and commercial exchanges.
In remarks before the signing, both leaders highlighted the similarities between the two distant states. Like Vermont, Tottori is mountainous, home to ski slopes and fall foliage. Scott said both places share challenges with their rural economies and small, aging populations.
Vermont and Tottori first entered into an agreement in 2008 under Gov. Jim Douglas. Scott said that in the years since, that compact has led to numerous student exchanges, like the Green Across the World program.
“These exchanges give students an opportunity to…begin to see themselves as part of a much bigger world,” he said.
Hirai said that when he arrived in Vermont to sign the first agreement ten years ago, he was reminded of “The Sound of Music.”
“All of the world adores the scene of Vermont,” Hirai said before leading the room in singing “Edelweiss.”
Scott and Hirai exchanged commemorative keys: one made from Tottori iron, and one made from Barre granite. (“I have a very heavy key for you,” Scott joked.) Afterward, the crowd mingled in the Cedar Creek Room and enjoyed a performance by Misuki Ohnishi-san, who played an original composition on a koto, a type of Japanese harp.