Yukio Kuzumaki, co-founder, friend and long-time supporter of the Hot Springs-Hanamaki Sister City Program, passed away yesterday in Hanamaki, Japan. He was 70 years old.
As president of the board of the Hanamaki-Hot Springs Exchange Committee and board member of the Hanamaki International Exchange Association, Kuzumaki was deeply involved in welcoming and hosting the Hot Springs delegations that have visited Hanamaki throughout the program’s 22-year existence. He officially represented Hanamaki throughout many delegation visits to Hot Springs, often as head of Hanamaki’s deer dancer group, or Shishi Odori. The Shishi Odori performed at the Hot Springs Convention Center’s grand opening, National Park 175th Anniversary celebration, and other important occasions for the City of Hot Springs.
During the Hot Springs-Hanamaki 20th Anniversary celebration in 2013, Kuzumaki was presented with a special certificate recognizing his major contributions to the Sister City Program. One of Kuzumaki’s final gifts to Hot Springs was contributing to the extensive renovation and upgrade of the Hot Springs Convention Center Deer Dancer Exhibit during the 2013 visit. His final visit to Hot Springs was in November 2014 when he participated in the Commendation Ceremony whereby the Hot Springs-Hanamaki Sister City Program was honored by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan.
“Mr. Kuzumaki was a long-time friend and faithful supporter of our Sister City friendship,” said Hot Springs Mayor Ruth Carney. “We will always be grateful for the efforts he made through the years to deepen the goodwill between our cities. He will be greatly missed by so many Hot Springs residents who knew him, shared experiences with him and felt his love for the Sister City Program. We offer our deepest condolences to his family, friends and colleagues in Hanamaki City. We are thankful for his life and legacy that will continue to foster acceptance, appreciation and understanding between cultures, and ultimately, a more peaceful world.”