Saanich Mayor Richard Atwell showcases Takata Japanese Garden at the Gardens of the Horticultural College of the Pacific to his counterpart from Hatsukaichi City, Katsuhiro Shinno, Monday morning. Wolf Depner/News Staff

Sights of Saanich bring smiles to Japanese delegation

A small leap highlighted the short but potentially historic visit of a Japanese delegation to Saanich.

Sometime after Saanich Mayor Richard Atwell had presented Mayor Katsuhiro Shinno of Hatsukaichi City with a commemorative painting from Saanich artist Mike Lathrop, the visitor from Japan sought to thank the artist for his work.

One big problem though so to speak – Lathrop stands about six-foot-four with the physique of a pro football linebacker. As for Shinno, well, he is about a foot shorter and on the slight side.

But Shinno, who is also at least a decade or two older than Lathrop, would not be deterred. He simply jumped in the air before shaking Lathrop’s hand. The gesture drew approving laughter from the packed council gallery.

“I thought it was funny,” said Lathrop of the leap. “Despite the language barrier, I was very impressed by his demeanor. He seemed to be a very warm and open-hearted individual.”

The three-person delegation from Japan will also return home with several pieces of memorabilia from Saanich Police and Fire Department and the Saanich Braves following a gift presentation that became increasingly more relaxed.

In fact, the Japanese visitors eventually posed for the obligatory group photo wearing their gifted Saanich Braves jerseys, with some observers joking that they looked like National Hockey League draft picks.

Hours earlier, the mood was perhaps more formal as the delegation visited various spots in Saanich. They included Camosun College and at the Gardens at the Horticulture Centre of the Pacific, where Atwell and Shinno toured Takata Japanese Garden under a brilliant blue sky, with spring-like temperatures.

In fact, the serene setting and formal attire that all parties wore evoked, perhaps prematurely, a wedding ceremony. While similar in many ways, several steps remain before Saanich and Hatsukaichi City, a suburb of Hiroshima, can enter a formalized sister-city relationship.

But if Monday’s visit was any indication, the first date went more than well.

Atwell said it was true privilege to host Mayor Shinno and he would remember the visit for the rest of his life.

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