Twenty-one businessmen and other professionals from Japan visited Culver City, Marina del Rey and other parts of the Los Angeles area this week to learn about local government and community services.
The delegation from the Wakayama Junior Chamber included vice presidents of a cosmetics firm and an oil company, a tax accountant, ceramic artist, real estate appraiser, reporter, and a representative of the mayor. Naohisa Kashihata, president of the chamber and director of the Wakayama-United States Leadership Program, said the visit to the Westside was prompted by his meeting Culver City Mayor Jozelle Smith at the U.S. Conference of Mayors this summer.
Speaking through an interpreter, he said that Wakayama, a coastal city of 400,000, has much in common with Culver City. It is close to Osaka, where an international airport is under construction, and is concerned about how to maintain its own identity being next door to a metropolis. "We're very interested in how Culver City is trying to be unique, even though it is near, even surrounded by a big city. . . . It's hard to be very independent," he said.
The city is also trying to build a new harbor and develop its recreation services and leisure industry, Kashihata said.
During their three days in the Los Angeles area, the group toured the marina, West Los Angeles College, Culver City's senior center and schools, and a Japanese retirement home in Boyle Heights. Culver City declared Tuesday "Wakayama Day" and named the delegation members honorary Culver City citizens for the day.
Their stay here was the first stop in a two-week tour, which includes visits to New York City, San Antonio, Boston and Pittsburgh. The tour is part of the Wakayama-United States Leadership Program, which tries to promote an exchange of ideas on regional policies, business development and the environment.