Early this June, Metropolitan State University welcomed two students from Japan who will attend the Saint Paul university as a cultural exchange, in a celebration that also commemorated the Nagasaki-Saint Paul Sister City Committee's fifth anniversary of the Gift of Cherry Trees.
President Virginia "Ginny" Arthur greeted students Ayano Tsuchihashi and Yoshiki Ohgi coming from Nagasaki University to attend Metropolitan State in an inaugural exchange between the universities. A representative from the Japanese Consulate in Chicago attended, as well as city officials. Special guests included Takayuki Miyanishi, president of the Nagasaki-Saint Paul Sister City Committee.
In February 2017, the signing of a memorandum of understanding between Metropolitan State and Nagasaki University opened opportunities for a cultural exchange of students. The memorandum allows students from Metropolitan State to study in Japan for long and short term sessions. As part of the exchange, Metropolitan State will host an equal number of Nagasaki University students. Metropolitan State students will leave in August 2017 to attend Nagasaki University.
In 2012, the government of Japan donated 20 cherry trees to the City of Saint Paul as part of its Centennial Celebration of the Gift of Trees to Washington, DC. Saint Paul was one of 36 cities in the U.S. chosen to receive them in large part due to its having the oldest Sister City relationship with any city in Japan. The cherry trees line the steps up to the Mannheimer Memorial and form a semi-circle at the top of the hill. Additional trees are planted each year and the grove now numbers 30-plus trees.
Saint Paul and Nagasaki became Sister Cities in December 1955. It is the oldest Sister City relationship between a U.S. and an Asian city. In 2015, the relationship celebrated 60 years with a gala year of exchanges and exhibitions. In 2015, Devinder Malhotra, then-interim president of Metropolitan State, accompanied Saint Paul Mayor Chris Coleman's official delegation to Nagasaki, which led to the exchange agreement between Metropolitan State and Nagasaki University. Tokens of esteem to Japan include two sculptures in the Nagasaki Peace Park, these cherry trees and the Japanese Garden at Como Park are living tributes from Japan to Saint Paul.