Guest Column

Hon. Robyn Grant

Hon. Erik Weigand

City of Newport Beach

Sisterly Love

The Newport Beach Sister City Association traveled to our Sister City of Okazaki, Japan this week to celebrate the 40th anniversary of our friendship and affiliation. We joined a 15-member Newport Beach delegation to participate with Okazaki Mayor Yasuhiro Nakane and many electeds from their 37-member city legislature in various ceremonial events around the city.

The highlight of the visit was the presentation of an original artwork commissioned by the Sister City Association from Orange County artist Pierce Meehan. Okazaki officials were especially appreciative of the work which combines elements of the American and Japanese flags and is representative of the longstanding friendship between our cities.

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Photos courtesy of Robyn Grant

Newport Beach City Councilmembers Robyn Grant and Erik Weigand in Tokyo with Sister City Gift, “Indivisible,” by Orange County artist Pierce Meehan

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Okazaki Samurai performers with Newport Beach City Councilmember Robyn Grant, Okazaki Mayor Yasuhiro Nakane and Newport Beach City Councilmember Erik Weigand

Later that evening, the Newport Beach delegation, Mayor Nakane and other dignitaries gathered for a reception where we toasted our future with “kanpai,” shared token gifts, and took part in a Samurai demonstration.

Okazaki is recognized for its miso (the Emperor of Japan’s official producer), impressive stonework and fireworks (70% of Japan’s fireworks are manufactured there). It is also the birthplace of Shogun Tokugawa, gifted military leader and first shogun of the Tokugawa shogunate, considered an extraordinary period of peace during effective rule over Japan from 1600 until 1867.

Our travels went on to include a few days in Kyoto and Tokyo, where sightseeing included historic shrines, temples and castles, and we enjoyed delicious Japanese cuisine.

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Okazaki delegation – (L-R) Front row: Teddi Tate, Mary Blacker, Connie Skibba, City Councilmember Robyn Grant, Jeannie Celeketic, Kathy Cox, Jane Piasecki, Kathryn Pepper, Samantha Andersen and City Councilmember Erik Weigand; Back row: Truly Gold Boring, Mike Skibba and Matt Jones

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Newport Beach Sister City Association Past President Connie Skibba and Mike Skibba

No taxpayer dollars were used for the trip aside from some small souvenirs the delegation presented to our hosts.

Nationwide, the Sister City program started in 1956 when President Eisenhower created it as a conduit for greater international understanding and communication between cities around the world.  Today, more than 900 U.S. cities have established Sister City affiliations worldwide. California leads the country with 188 sister cities.

The Newport Beach Sister City Association continues this legacy through longstanding friendships and civic and student exchanges with our three sister cities – Okazaki, Japan; Antibes, France and Ensenada, Mexico.

The organization has enjoyed a long history of excellent leadership by Past-President Connie Skibba, and most recently, President Truly Gold Boring, granddaughter of Newport-Balboa Rotarian Wendell Fish, who along with another Rotarian, Moe Hamill, and an Okazaki Rotarian, Maseo Kato, founded the Okazaki-Newport Beach program.

Over the years, Newport Beach has benefitted greatly from these relationships. Many City Councilmembers and city staff have traveled with Sister Cities including former City Manager Homer Bludau and former Councilmembers Keith Curry, Diane Dixon, Evelyn Hart, Mike Henn, Steve Rosansky and Don Webb.

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City Councilmember Robyn Grant, Sister City President Truly Gold Boring, Orange County artist Pierce Meehan and City Councilmember Erik Weigand

We also are fortunate to have been gifted many pieces of public art over the years including Nakayoshi, Good Friends, a charming sculpture of two children embracing. It is crafted from granite by Japanese artist Eiichi Ishida and nestles on the lawn at the entry to the Central Library, with a smaller companion piece installed at Mariners Library.

There are also two granite lanterns and the Tokugawa Friendship Statue resting among the Japanese Black Pines at Irvine Terrace Park.

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Newport Beach City Councilmember Robyn Grant with Japanese artist Mr. Ito

In July, an Okazaki delegation will visit Newport Beach in honor of the 40th anniversary with a public ceremony at City Council on July 11, when a companion art piece by Pierce Meehan we will be presented to the city.

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Newport Beach City Councilmember Erik Weigand

Domo arigato Okazaki!

The Newport Beach Sister City Association is a non-profit, volunteer organization funded through private resources. Anyone can become a member and enjoy the camaraderie and cultural resources.  For more information visit, or contact the president, Truly Gold Boring, at

Robyn Grant and Erik Weigand are members of the Newport Beach City Council. First elected in 2022, they represent the 4th and 3rd Districts, respectively. They can be reached at or @robynbgrant and or @erik4newport.