BRUNSWICK — Mayor Ron Falconi is gearing up for a new cultural experience.
The Brunswick resident is among 10 community leaders of Asian-American heritage who were chosen to participate in the Kakehashi Project in Japan, a regional component of Japan’s Friendship Ties Program and Asian-American Leadership Program.
The exchange tour Sunday through Oct. 16 includes visits to Hiroshima, Tokyo and Kyoto. The group will attend lectures, interact and exchange ideas with Japanese government officials and business leaders, and engage in traditional cultural and historical experiences.
“It’s like a dream come true,” Falconi said. “I love traveling and I love politics and this combines the two. It’s an honor to represent the city of Brunswick and to be one of 10 leaders from the country to participate in this unique program.”
In August, Falconi, of Filipino descent, said he was contacted by the Japanese Consulate-General’s office in Detroit asking if he wanted to participate in the program.
“I was thrilled by this. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” he said. “I sent a copy of my resume and contact information and heard back within weeks.”
The program, launched by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan, promotes people-to-people exchanges between Japan and other nations to encourage an understanding of Japan’s economy, society, history, diverse culture, politics and diplomatic relations.
“Their culture is completely different from ours and to experience that is going to be fascinating,” Falconi said. “I’ll be interested to see how their government works, what works for them and compare things that work for us … problems they have, how they solve problems and how we solve problems.”
Falconi and the group will attend briefings on topics including foreign affairs, host an “opinion exchange” with residents and participate in a traditional tea ceremony in Kyoto. They also are scheduled to visit the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum and the Itsukushima Shrine/ Miyajima in Hiroshima.
“This will be my first time traveling outside of the airport (in Tokyo),” Falconi said, noting he has traveled through the country on his way to the Philippines. “It’s going to be fun.”
When he was asked what he would like to see and do while abroad, Falconi said visiting a local high school was top of his list. The group is scheduled to visit Kanagawa Prefectural High School, just south of Tokyo.
“I want to know what things are important to Japanese students and compare with what things are important to American students,” he said. “I would also like to talk about their education system, their culture and how they view America, and if they have any questions about my city of Brunswick and America in general.”
Falconi will depart from Cleveland Hopkins Airport on Sunday for a 14-hour flight, with a stop in Washington D.C., before arriving in Tokyo.
“I’m very excited to do this and it’s humbling to represent the city.”
Contact reporter Halee Heironimus at (330) 721-4012 or firstname.lastname@example.org.