Wednesday 24 October 2018

FSFA Delegation Visit to Susono, September 2018

Our 2018 Frankston delegation visit to our sister city Susono was a highly successful, hectic and enjoyable time for the 22 delegates - which included 2 teachers and 7 students from Frankston High School.

The delegation was led by Mayor Colin Hampton and included his wife Nancye and sister-in-law Heather, along with members of the FSFA Executive Committee, community members and the teachers and students who were on board to entertain during the Australian Fair!

Our delegation arrived by shinkansen (bullet train) at Mishima Station on Thursday 27 September and were met by members from SOFA (Susono Overseas Friendship Association). We were transported the short distance to Susono where an official welcome ceremony took place at the Susono Citizens Cultural Centre. There were speeches by the respective mayors and leaders of the sister city organisations, as well as introductions to the host families. We then left to commence our home stay with the host families.

Susono Mayor Kenji Takamura at the welcoming ceremony

Frankston Mayor Colin Hampton

On Friday SOFA arranged a full day of activities which included a visit to the newly opened and amazing Mount Fuji World Heritage Centre in Fujinomiya ( and nearby Fujisan HongÅ« Sengen Taisha ( For more than 1,100 years, this renowned shrine has been the head shrine for more than 1,300 Sengen shrines throughout Japan!

Mount Fuji World Heritage Centre (upside down Fuji-san!)

Torii gate leading to Fujisan Hongū Sengen Taisha

It was then time for lunch where we cooked our own okonomiyaki - a Japanese-style pancake with flour, egg, vegetables and meat mixed together and cooked on a hotplate at your table. There were also drinks and platters of yakisoba noodles to sate our appetites.

Beware: Okonomiyaki cooking experts at work!

The afternoon was spent at the Japan Garden Railway, a special treat for us as it usually only opens on the 1st and 3rd Sunday of each month. An exciting afternoon observing the many model steam locomotives and the opportunity to ride along the 400 metre track - I suspect the Segway was even more popular than the trains!

Japan Garden Railway in Susono

All aboard!!!

The adult members of the delegation attended the official welcome party on the Friday evening where the formal, sit down feast was enjoyed by all!

Mayor Colin Hampton addressing the welcome party with Noriko and Kenji Takamura, and Nancye Hampton.

Official Welcome Party

The Saturday morning was spent with host families before the real business commenced in the afternoon - the AFL Grand Final! Actually, the afternoon was spent setting up our displays and preparing for the Australian Fair (and some of the Collingwood supporters might've been listening in on the broadcast!)

Final preparations complete!

The Australian Fair commenced at 10 a.m. on the Sunday morning with the impending arrival of the typhoon casting some doubt over the proceedings. The major focus of our display was a virtual reality (VR) presentation with the theme: Frankston ... You're Standing In It! A plentiful supply of pamphlets and brochures promoting Frankston and Victoria were available, along with a 3 x 2.4 metre pictorial banner featuring aerial shots of our great city. The centerpiece of our display were the Oculus Go VR goggles featuring a 360 degree video shot and prepared by Bruce Pearce from Content Services Melbourne ( The video features iconic Frankston scenes such as Nepean Highway, Frankston Pier and Foreshore, Sand Sculptures Australia, Wells Street precinct, George Pentland Botanical Gardens, the Japanese Garden at Frankston High School and students playing football on Frankston Oval, Kars Street.

You can download and view the video via the link at the top right of our FSFA website!

We were thrilled with the response from those who attended, particularly the younger Susono residents who were blown away by the immersive experience. In fact, one young boy after some initial reluctance could not get enough and returned half a dozen times! We also provided a QR code link to our website so they could download or stream the video and gave away 60 sets of VR plastic goggles (not the Oculus Go type!)

The Frankston VR Experience using the Oculus Go headset.

The Australian Fair Opening Ceremony commenced at 11 a.m. and featured speeches from both mayors and sister city chairpersons, the exchange of gifts between the cities and sister city associations, as well as the presentation of the 2017 Sister Cities Australia Award for Community Involvement to SOFA Chairperson Shoji Ninomiya. All FSFA delegation members were also presented on the main stage to those attending the Fair.

Susono Mayor Takamura's Opening Ceremony speech

Exchange of gifts

Mayors Takamura and Hampton proudly display the gifts to each of the cities.

Mayor Colin Hampton also gave a presentation on the plans to develop a Japanese themed garden located in Susono Way, outside the Frankston Private Hospital. This drew much applause and appreciation from those present!

Mayor Hampton outlines the plans for a Japanese inspired garden in Susono Way.

We also enjoyed the great music provided by the students and teachers from the Frankston High School's clarinet ensemble who performed for and entertained the crowd on the main stage throughout the day. Some traditional bush dancing was thrown in for good measure with members of the audience (NOT delegation!) joining in and demonstrating remarkable enthusiasm and aerobic endurance. There was also a commendable effort by all the delegation members to sing a few Aussie songs to the politely appreciative audience!

The FSFA contribution also included the sampling of a range of yummy "Australian foods" sourced from Ritchies Stores in Frankston and shipped and carried from Frankston to Susono. These included lollies, Anzac biscuits, lamingtons, various chocolates, savory biscuits and pavlovas made by FSFA and SOFA members in Susono.

The range of "Australian foods" available for sampling at the Fair.

With the approach of the typhoon it was decided to wind up (no pun intended) the Fair an hour early so the clean up and Farewell Party could get under way. A sumptuous feast of Japanese foods and drinks was laid on as we were joined by host families and friends of SOFA to celebrate another successful sister city visit. Some of us even got to make takoyaki (octopus balls). We were entertained by Akiyama-san's spectacular taiko drumming group and some were also able to play their drums.

Akiyama-san's taiko drumming group

All too soon the evening's entertainment came to an end and we were departing for our last night with our host families. We re-assembled early on the Monday morning for a final photo on the steps of the Susono City offices before being driven to Mishima to catch our shinkansen.

It's remarkable how quickly the time passes but the bonds of friendship remain as strong as ever. New friendships are forged, old ones re-kindled, and life-long memories are created over 4 remarkable days. We are so thankful to the hard working members of SOFA, all our host families and those who made our delegation visit such a wonderful success! Arigatou gozaimashita! We look forward to welcoming a delegation from Susono to Frankston in early 2020, hopefully led by Mayor Takamura and his wife Noriko.

We look forward to holding our Japanese Festival during the delegation's visit to our wonderful city by the bay. See you in 2020!!

Majestical Fuji-san!