New CIR Departs for Nanae! Changes due for

Dear fans and followers of The Concord-Nanae Connection:

As many of you know, Concord and Nanae are proud to have appointed Mr. Nick Ferbert as their new Coordinator of International Relations. After being officially sworn into office at the Concord Town House last Saturday, Nick will return to Nanae this afternoon with the members of the 2012 Sister City 15th Anniversary delegation. The delegates included Nanae Mayor Yasukazu Nakamiya, 5 members of the Nanae Town Assembly including Chair Yuichi Yokota, and Nanae’s Advisor to the CIR Ms. Emi Kimura. They are set to arrive in Nanae on Thursday morning Japan time.

It’s my pleasure to announce that Nick is planning to continue working on this website in addition to his other duties as CIR. Nick brings an excellent new set of skills, including a keen business sense, to the Concord-Nanae sister city relationship, and I’m very pleased to leave control of this website in his capable hands. It’s also worth noting that he’ll probably be much larger asset to the local basketball team than I was. Alongside 6’6″ Concord ALT Ben Haydock (CCHS ’07), Concord’s presence on the courts in Nanae will surely become a formidable force.

Dr. Nurenberg (middle) plays the taiko in Nanae

With all this in mind, please note that the appearance of may change in the coming weeks and months as we start accepting content from multiple authors. I’m particularly excited to welcome two new authors to the site: Dr. David Nurenberg, who is the faculty advisor to the Concord-Carlisle Sci-Fi Club, and Koji Matsuyama, who advises the Nanae High School English Club.

Dr. Nurenberg is Concord’s official Sister School Coordinator, and leads the CCHS Sci-Fi Club on official visits to Nanae almost every year.  Koji Matsuyama-sensei just finished his first visit to Concord this week, and his

Koji Matsuyama-sensei

strong background in media will undoubtedly become a great asset as we develop new paths for communication between Sci-Fi and English Club students and our communities at large.

I hope you all can share in my excitement for the future of this website, Nick’s work as CIR, and the development of the Concord-Nanae sister city relationship. It has been a pleasure helping it change and grow these last 2 years.

Ever forward,

Ben Mirin

CIR 2010-2012

Science-Fiction and Agriculture: Concord Delegation Finalized for April 2012

By Ben Mirin, CIR

In place of this week’s episode of “Sister Cities,” I bring you an exciting update (the import of which should explain why there will also be no Sister Cities episode on Friday, April 13th, but look for more delegation updates around that time!):

This week, Nanae’s International Relations section has finalized the schedule for its next official delegation visit from Concord. Arriving on April 10th, 30 Concord delegates will tour Nanae (and the nearby city of Hakodate), home-stay with local Nanae families, and attend various cultural events organized specifically for their four-day stay.

This upcoming delegation has a central focus, since 25 of its 30 members will represent the Concord-Carlisle High School Science-Fiction Club. Led by CCHS English teacher and Sister School Coordinator Dr. David Nurenburg, this will be the Club’s second time making an official visit to the Japanese sister city, after a groundbreaking trip in 2009. (click for photos)

Concord’s delegation will also consist of Concord-Carlisle Librarian Robin Chichetti, Concord translator Junko Kargula, Concord-Carlisle Nurse Cary Bestor Williams, and the delegation leader, Concord-Carlisle Vice-Principal Dr. Alan Weinstein. Collectively, their visit will sustain a 15-year tradition of April delegations from Concord to Nanae. It will also mark 2 years of a healthy sister school relationship between Concord-Carlisle and Nanae High Schools, poignantly, at a time when the Japanese school year is just beginning. Continue reading “Science-Fiction and Agriculture: Concord Delegation Finalized for April 2012”

2011 – New Photographs on Nanae’s Latest Delegation Visit

By Ben Mirin, CIR

This posting is to announce the upload of the top 100 photographs taken during Nanae’s most recent delegation visit to Concord, Boston, and New York City.  The photographs, shot by the CIR (yours truly), document events from the week of September 23rd to 30th in Concord as well as in Boston and, from the following weekend, in New York City.

The 20 latest photographs from this collection are displayed on’s Photo Gallery.  To view the complete collection in chronological order, visit the Nanae Delegation 2011 photo set in the CIR’s Flickr Photostream.

Happy viewing!

[FAG id=2486]

Concord Receives Largest Nanae Delegation in Town History

By Ben Mirin

As seen in The Concord Journal.

On September 23rd, Concord received its largest ever delegation from Nanae, the town’s Japanese sister city. A group of seventy-two delegates filled the cafeteria of Concord Carlisle High School around 9pm to meet their host families and settle in for a week of exchange programs, official sister-city events, and sightseeing.

“We’ve been planning the events for this delegation visit for nearly a year now,” said Dr. Tom Curtin, Concord-Carlisle High School’s former guidance counselor and Concord’s primary coordinator and linchpin for the towns’ increasingly rich sister city history.

“We’ve just finished arranging all the homestays, and the group we’ve got on board to help host and entertain this year’s delegates is incredibly strong. We’re also excited to welcome some new faces from Boston into the sister city program, who have helped organized some exciting trips for us downtown.”

This year Nanae’s delegates will make several time-honored visits to Concord sites, including the Old North Bridge and the Orchard House. Curtin has also arranged tours of Harvard Square, the Japanese wing at the Museum of Fine Arts, and Berklee College of Music, with a special live performance by Japanese faculty member and trumpet virtuoso Tiger Okoshi.

Nanae has been sending its citizens to Concord almost every year since 1993, first informally and then officially after Concord’s Board of Selectmen voted to formalize the sister-city relationship in 1997. Historically, these groups have been on the smaller side, rarely amounting to more than twenty people. Students and teachers from Nanae’s elementary, middle, and high schools have comprised the majority of each delegation, alongside representatives of the local government. Members of the town’s taiko drum ensemble, interpreters, and many other citizens have also been in the mix.

But this year’s group is so large because of a promise that was made early on in the Concord-Nanae relationship, which will celebrate its fifteenth anniversary in October 2012. The Concord-Carlisle High School band director, Alfred Dentino, has been waiting to see it fulfilled.

“We first sent our Concert and Jazz bands to Nanae in 1998” Dentino said. “The trip was a great success, and our students loved having the chance to visit Japan. I’ve been waiting for the chance to host Nanae’s high school band in Concord ever since.” Continue reading “Concord Receives Largest Nanae Delegation in Town History”

The Concord-Nanae Student News Exchange Begins

By Ben Mirin, CIR

April 25th, 2011

Hitomi Shihoya

On April 11th, Concord-Carlisle High School’s student newspaper, The Voice, published its first article submitted by a student from Nanae High School.  Second-year student (high school junior) Hitomi Shihoya of the Nanae High School English Club wrote about her experience of Japan’s terrible earthquake last month and her reflections on its aftermath.

“I was very surprised because I had never seen such a large-scale earthquake in my whole life,” Shihoya writes.  “I came back to everyday life in a few days, but I am very anxious because I don’t know when the next natural disaster will happen. I am also very worried about more aftershocks, and the nuclear radiation in Fukushima.”

Shihoya’s article also expresses personal gratitude toward the US and other foreign nations that contributed to Japan’s relief efforts following the disaster. The complete text of her article can be seen on The Voice‘s website.

This publication marks the launch of what will hopefully become an ongoing exchange between high school students in Concord, Carlisle, and Nanae.  The projects’ orchestrators–the CIR and the faculty advisors to The Voice and the English Club–hope eventually to establish a written cross-cultural dialogue between students in both towns on at least a monthly basis.

Concord-Carlisle High School and Nanae High School are officially sister schools.  Official visits and home-stays between the schools’ bands and the CCHS Sci-Fi Club have been centerpieces in the rich history of the Concord-Nanae sister city relationship.  The Student News Exchange, as the project is tentatively titled, is intended to bring two more student organizations, the English Club and The Voice, more deeply into that framework. Continue reading “The Concord-Nanae Student News Exchange Begins”

Reflections on Japan’s March 11th Earthquake, Tsunamis, and Their Aftermath

by Ben Mirin, CIR

What follows is the combined text of my first and second entries for “The Japan Connection,” my new bi-monthly column in The Concord Journal, the local paper in Nanae’s American sister city Concord, Massachusetts. I am currently working on my 3rd piece, which will reach print on Wednesday, May 4th.

Look for this article in the Summer 2011 issue of Concord Academy Magazine.

The Sun Will Rise Again: Japan in the Aftermath of the March 11th Earthquake

HAKODATE, Japan: Driving away from the oncoming wave, I hit Route 5 and had to stop suddenly.  No one else seemed to know that a second tsunami was coming.  For what felt like an eternity, I sat at the intersection near Jujigai as citizens waited patiently for the light to turn green.

After watching 10-meter waves destroy much of northeastern Honshu on television, I had driven downtown from my government office in Nanae, Hokkaido, upon receiving word that Hakodate–a city just 10 kilometers south of my beloved town and home to many of my coworkers and English students–had experienced flooding after the earthquake.  To what extent, I did not know.

In an explosion of debris and muddy water, the tsunami caught up with me.  It was faster now, and higher. Fishmongers dropped armfuls of merchandise and ran across the highway as an oncoming bus veered around them onto a narrow side street. I mounted the curb and careened through the city’s back roads in an effort to get to higher ground…

The next day the streets were filthy.  Storefronts near Toyokawa Wharf were in complete disarray as storeowners, government workers, and volunteers trudged through muck and piles of destroyed merchandise.  Heaps of dead and dying seafood punctuated a parade of ruined furniture, plastic bags filled with wet clothes, and fragments of shattered architecture.  King crabs worth 18,000 Yen lay worthless upon overturned wooden crates.  Even the noble squid, for which Hakodate is famous worldwide, could be seen lying dead on the pavement.

The tsunamis in Hakodate had reached an approximate height of 1.8 meters.  From what I could see, the water had pushed at least 3 blocks inland, flooding several evacuation sites where hundreds of residents and tourists were taking refuge.

“When the second tsunami hit, the first floor of our building flooded,” said volunteer and Hakodate native Toru Maruyama.  He stood outside the third-floor conference room of the O. Loisir Hotel, where a weary crowd was lining up to receive a delivery of fresh packed lunches from the Hakodate Town Office.

“When I arrived at 11pm last night there were about 100 people staying here.  When the floods came, the street outside became like a river.”

As volunteers poured into Hakodate, life back in Nanae was eerily silent.  No one seemed to be mobilizing recovery teams.  They were all staying home with their families. Perhaps they were glued to their televisions, watching the news unfold:

“Route 5 is closed until further notice. Hakodate’s JR Train Station is expected to reopen this Sunday afternoon. One man, 67-year-old Teguramori Keiji of Wakamatsu-cho, Hakodate, has drowned.” Continue reading “Reflections on Japan’s March 11th Earthquake, Tsunamis, and Their Aftermath”

Temporary Leave of Absence

I wrote this letter a couple weeks ago, but felt it prudent to post it here as well.   I am still on leave, and currently scheduled to return to Nanae on April 10th.

-Ben Mirin, CIR

Dear friends and family,

I will keep this brief.  First of all, I am writing to let you all know that I am safe and healthy.  Thank you to everyone who has expressed concern about my safety and wellbeing over the past couple weeks.

As of March 24th I will be taking a temporary leave of absence from my job in Nanae, Japan.  The current plan is to abscond to Hawaii on standby, with the intention to return to Japan on April 3rd.  If, however, the nuclear crisis in Fukushima remains as nebulous as it is right now, I will likely extend my stay and will consider returning to Concord to continue my work as Coordinator of International Relations from there in our American sister city.

Experiencing this terrible tragedy firsthand has been a life-changing experience.  I have grown as a journalist, a government employee, and most of all as a person, and have been awakened to the full depth of my appreciation and love for Nanae.  My heart remains with the Japanese people during this tense time, and I ardently hope that we will be reunited very soon.

I hope this message finds you well.



Official Communication: Nanae to Concord after the Earthquake

–Translated by Ben Mirin, CIR, and Emi Kimura, Assistant CIR–

March 17th, 2011

Nanae Town Office

Nanae-cho, Kameda-gun

Hokkaido, Japan 041-1192


Board of Selectmen’s Office

Concord, Massachusetts 01742


Dear Chairman Wieand and Friends in Concord,

We deeply thank you for your expressed concerns and warm messages following the earthquake.  We are glad to inform you that Nanae did not sustain any damage.  However, the Tohoku (northeastern) and Kanto (eastern) areas of Japan are suffering from this disaster.  The earthquake and the tsunami caused massive damage to their towns and many people have died or gone missing.

This was the biggest earthquake to hit Japan since the government started keeping records.  Not only did it leave mortal damage and scars, but it also made many people lose their homes and evacuate to shelters.  There are no words to express how these people are feeling now or how hard their lives have become.

We are grateful to the American government for sending teams to Japan so quickly.  We thank all of our friends in Concord and the American nation for their support.

Right now our government is working with full force for a fast recovery.  The Town of Nanae is going to contribute as much as we can in this regard.



Yasukazu Nakamiya

Mayor of Nanae