Jasper / Hakone Sister City Relationship

On July 4, 1972, the Town of Jasper and the Town of Hakone, Japan established and were united in a Sister City relationship. Since then, residents of Jasper and Hakone have practiced the spirit of the Declaration of Sisterly Affiliation through exchange programs of culture, education and tourism, and have maintained the Sister City relationship based on sincere mutual trust, respect and confidence.

Although International travel has slowed, planning still continues and connections are being made as Councillors Ralph Melnyk and Kathleen Waxer attended the Alberta/Japan Twinning Municipalities Association Conference in Taber, Alberta on June 3 & 4, 2022. 

Mission of the Alberta/Japan Twinning Municipalities Association:

The mission of the association is to stimulate, co-ordinate, and facilitate twinning opportunities between the Province of Alberta and Japan. To learn more about the association, visit the Facebook page. 

The year 2006 saw the formal transfer of the Jasper/Hakone Sister City Relationship and the Jasper/Hakone Student Exchange Program from Jasper Tourism and Commerce to the Municipality of Jasper. Jasper Tourism and Commerce is commended for their ongoing efforts and contributions throughout the years prior to the formal transfer of the programs.  

In July 2010, Jasper Mayor and Council hosted a delegation of twelve business individuals, including the Deputy Mayor, from the Town of Hakone. A warm welcome was extended in the form of a reception with many Jasper individuals who have visited Hakone over the past 40 years. The Sister City Relationship was re-signed by both parties, recognizing 40 years of the Relationship.

During their visit, the delegates were escorted to many of Jasper’s highlights, including Pyramid and Patricia Lakes, Maligne Lake and Spirit Island, Jasper Sky Tram, together with a tour of Jasper’s municipal facilities. The delegation took part in Canada Day festivities, and was named “Honorary Parade Marshall” with all delegates riding in a horse-drawn carriage in the Canada Day parade.

A delegation from Hakone traveled to Jasper to renew old friends and acquaintances in the summer of 2015 which coincided with the Alberta/Japan Twinned Municipalities Conference held in Jasper.

Jasper/Hakone Student Exchange Program

The Jasper Hakone Student Exchange program was formally transferred from Jasper Tourism and Commerce to the Municipality of Jasper in 2006, and is a strong part of the Sister City relationship. 

The student exchange program is a most successful ongoing exchange. In conjunction with the Hakone International Exchange Association (Tourism Branch), and since 1974, the Jasper community has generously supported this program. Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge Bellmen's Auction, Jasper Lions Club, Jasper Tourism and Commerce, Jasper Rotary Club, Jasper Junior/Senior High School, Treks and Travel, and the Municipality of Jasper, have partnered in assisting 94 students to participate in a great lifetime experience since the inception of the program.

Each summer, a maximum of two students are chosen from the Jasper Grade 11 classes for the exchange. Students from both the Jasper Junior/Senior High School and the École Desrochers are eligible to apply for the Exchange. Students are asked to write an essay on why they feel they would be the perfect ambassador to represent Jasper in Hakone. It is on the basis of these essays that the Jasper/Hakone Sister City committee decides on the successful candidate(s).

Students are selected to travel to Japan as Jasper's ambassadors, spend three weeks with a Hakone family and host students from Hakone in Jasper the following summer. Hakone visitors will take part in many activities planned by Jasper students including horseback riding, kayaking, river rafting, boat rides on Maligne Lake to Spirit Island, travelling up the Jasper Sky Tram, hiking, biking, camping and so on.  

The total cost of the program changes with the price of airfares each year, but generally costs are in the region of $2,000 per student. Students chosen to travel to Japan are requested to contribute a nominal sum to the cost of the program, but generally, the majority of the program costs are derived from donations from local groups, organizations and business operators that support the Jasper/Hakone Exchange program. 

Upon their return to Jasper, students may be expected to make a presentation to Mayor and Council, or provide a PowerPoint presentation of their experiences to the community.

The program has been on hold since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic began in 2020. The last students to travel from Jasper to Hakone were able to visit in 2019.