NJ Town Keeps Hope for Japan Sister City

By Andrew Siff
|  Thursday, Mar 17, 2011  |  Updated 5:36 PM EDT
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NJ Town Keeps Hope for Japan Sister City

AP

ALTERNATE CROP OF TOK870 OF MARCH 17, 2011 - In this photo taken on Wednesday afternoon, March 16, 2011 and released on Thursday, March 17 by Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO), the top part of the badly damaged No. 4 unit of the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant in Okumamachi, Fukushima Prefecture, is shown. A nearly completed new power line could restore cooling systems in Japan's tsunami-crippled nuclear power plant, its operator said Thursday, raising some hope of easing the crisis that has threatened a meltdown and already spawned dangerous radiation surges. (AP Photo/Tokyo Electric Power Co.) EDITORIAL USE ONLY, NO SALES

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The crisis in Japan is personal for one New Jersey town that has strong ties to a village struggling after the tsunami and nuclear plant meltdown.

Jean and Charles Stewart of Glen Rock have lived on the same street for 48 years. For almost 20 of them, they've hosted visitors from Onomachi, a village that sits just 30 miles from the compromised Fukushima nuclear reactor.  It has also been Glen Rock's sister city since 1992.

"We would have our breakfast out there every morning," said Charles Stewart, pointing to his porch, and to pictures of smiling residents from Glen Rock and Onomachi. His daughter Kristen Stewart-O'Brien started the partnership after studying in Japan.

And Jean Stewart's father helped establish telecommunications in Japan when he worked for AT&T decades ago. Now much of northeastern coastal Japan is rubble. 

"I know the Japanese are very resilient people," said Jean Stewart.

The sister city relationship between the Bergen county borough and its far-Eastern counterpart has blossomed, leading to friendships, gifts and countless trips back and forth.

Onomachi has survived the quake and tsunami, but the village is near the evacuation zone around the nuclear plant.
 
"Unfortunately they're the midway point between the tsunami and nuclear power plants," said Nancy Spiller, secretary of Glen Rock's zoning board. She has also hosted families over the years. And she's catalogued gifts worthy of a museum, from delicate vases to feline figurines.

"It's supposed to bring good luck," said Spiller, indicating a white porcelain cat. "They call it a 'Hi Cat'."

She said the ultimate good luck would be this: if Onomachi rebounds from the current crisis, there are plans to sends a new group of children to its New Jersey sister city this summer.
 

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