Woodburn draws people from all over every spring for Tulip Fest, and that has attracted the attention of a particular city in Japan.
Gosen, Japan, located about three hours northwest of Tokyo, has a similar climate to Woodburn and is also known for its own Tulip Festival.
For several years, Gosen has sponsored youths to travel to the U.S. for a 12-day English immersion program, during which they spend a day at Wooden Shoe Tulip Farm in Woodburn.
This year, for the first time, the mayor of Gosen has joined them.
They (the city of Gosen) wanted an idea of what theyre paying for, said Woodburn Mayor Kathy Figley, noting that Gosen funds about 70 percent of the students costs to travel.
The mayor wanted an idea of what the kids were doing while here.
Mayor Ito Katsumi spent only three days stateside his first time visiting the U.S. and one day was spent in Woodburn, meeting with Figley, having lunch at Luiss Taqueria and then touring Wooden Shoe with six middle school-aged students from Gosen.
Figley, who pointed out many similarities between the two cities, said the Japanese mayor showed interest in starting a sister city partnership.
It was a first date, so well see what happens from here, she said.
Like Woodburn, Gosen is located in an agriculturally rich region, but its about twice the size of Woodburn.
The area is also well known for its cherry blossoms and peonies.
Even their nursery catalogs look like something youd see here, Figley said.
Speaking through a translator, Katsumi said he would love to visit Woodburn in April, when the tulips are actually in bloom, but he cant because of his citys own spring festivals.
Despite not seeing the buds that bond the two cities, Katsumi was pleased with what he saw in Woodburn.
It is more relaxed here and there is more space, he said through his translator. I appreciate the mayor welcoming us so warmly.
Katsumi was accompanied by Masayuki Sekizuka, chairman of the Gosen International Foundation, and two guides from Azumano International, a travel company based in Portland.
As a token of appreciation, the visitors brought a model of an 18th century Japanese home, handcrafted by a Gosen artisan.
Well put in the library so as many people can see it as possible, Figley said.
As far as the process of becoming a sister city of Gosen, Figley said she would like to talk to other cities similar in size to Woodburn that have successfully pulled off the program.
Im going to follow up with smaller communities that have actually done the sister city program and sustained it, what do you do, what it costs and whether we feel its a rewarding thing to do, Figley said. At the very least, its been a very interesting visit, to see what they do and how they do things quite a bit like us.
She said she would steer clear of anything requiring money, since the city has recently had to crunch numbers to balance its budget.
At the minimum, it would entail people being willing to commit to occasional travel, one way or the other, and hosting travelers from the other city, Figley said. You dont expect one city at one end to pull out all the stops without expecting the same. I wouldnt ask for money for this. But wed like to keep a friendly relationship.