Rijeka and Kawasaki, 40 Years of Twin Town Friendship

Total Croatia News

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Did you know Rijeka has 22 twin towns? A look to the long friendship between the biggest city on Kvarner and its Japanese twin on March 15, 2018

As you walk along the Korzo, the main promenade in the centre of Rijeka, the way will eventually lead you to Ban Jelačić Square – somewhat smaller than its famous Zagreb counterpart, but still a fairly popular gathering point for the locals. One of the first things you’ll notice is a lovely little fountain with a bronze sculpture of two seated kids, a boy and a girl, often visited by local seagulls and pigeons who flock to the fountain for a moment of rest.

For some of us younger citizens, such objects seem to have been integral parts of our urban landscape for as long as we can remember, and it’s always nice to learn about the history of our iconic landmarks. The fountain in question, for example, has only been gracing our city for 30 years. When I was somewhat younger, I was surprised to learn the bronze sculpture wasn’t just your average artistic intervention, but a symbol of friendship between Rijeka and the Japanese city of Kawasaki.

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Rijeka has 22 twin towns; most are located in Italy, Germany, or scattered all over Eastern Europe. You’ll find three in China and one in the US – but it’s Kawasaki that first became a sister city to Rijeka. The friendship treaty was signed some 40 years ago, on June 23, 1977, also making Rijeka the oldest twin town to Kawasaki. Paying tribute to this new cooperation, Kawasaki gifted the sculpture of the two kids to Rijeka, and it was decided to install the work at the new fountain which was built in 1988.

While Kawasaki is considerably bigger than its Croatian twin – counting a population of some 1.5 million – both cities are renowned harbour and industrial hubs. In 2017, Kawasaki Mayor Norihoko Fukuda visited Rijeka and met with Mayor Vojko Obersnel to sign the new collaboration treaty for the following 10 years. The occasion was reportedly Mayor Fukuda’s first visit to Rijeka, and he was delighted to take a tour of Rijeka’s prominent landmarks, including the fountain and another gift from our friends from Kawasaki – a traditional Japanese stone lantern, installed in one of Rijeka’s parks.


The cultural ties between Rijeka and Kawasaki go beyond these two monuments. A lot was done in the last four decades to strengthen the bond between the two cities: Croatian musician and translator Mirna Potkovac Endrigetti translated 14 Japanese short stories into Croatian, which were published in 1997 to mark the 20th anniversary of friendship. A year later, Ikuko Yamamoto of Tokyo origin translated a collection of fairy tales and short stories from the Croatian Littoral into Japanese.

Several art workshops have been organised to bring together artists and creative children from Kawasaki and Rijeka; many a teacher and professor from Rijeka has attended various programmes, lectures and workshops organised by Kawasaki. Ten years ago, the Noborito choir from Kawasaki presented the audience in Rijeka with a memorable performance. In turn, the Opera Orchestra of the Croatian National Theatre Ivan pl. Zajc in Rijeka had a concert in Japan.

And finally, a delightful fact to be seen as a perfect symbol of friendship between the two cities. You may already know Rijeka means river in Croatian. Well, the name Kawasaki is composed of two Kanji characters – 川 for Kawa, 崎 for Saki. The latter signifies a cape or a small peninsula; can you guess what Kawa means? River, of course – serendipity at its best.


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