Traverse City - Koka

History of Relationship

Originally, the City of Traverse City established a Sister City relationship with Tsuchiyama, Japan, in 1969. In 2004, the cities of Tsuchiyama, Konan, and Koka merged to form the city of Koka as a result of the governmental reorganization encouraged by Shiga Prefecture. The Sister City program is now referred to as Traverse City and Koka. A non-profit organization was created by long-time supporters Pamela and Michael Bailey of the Traverse City area; and it has coordinated all of the activities for this relationship. This organization is called Traverse City Tsuchiyama-Cho Cultural Exchange, Inc.

View Sister City Agreement


In January, 2006 Traverse Area Public Schools agreed to have an eighth grade exchange. The purpose of this program is to promote friendship and understanding between Japanese and American middle school students. Traverse City East and West Middle School students participated in the program. In early February of 2006 each school welcomed five students from Koka City, Japan. The students stayed with families, who have an eighth grade student in their family. In addition to attending school with the host family student they participated in activities with the family. They also visited with local government and public school officials. In November, nineteen eighth grade students from Traverse City Public Schools and two chaperones traveled to Koka for one week. Ten Japanese students visited Traverse City again in 2007. The program is on-going.

A major component of the sister state program has been the exchange of Goodwill Missions in alternate years. Hundreds of American and Japanese citizens have toured each other’s states on this exchange. Traverse City and Koka just celebrated forty years of successful Goodwill Missions.

Cultural sites of interest

There is an impressive collection of Japanese artwork on display at the Governmental Center in Traverse City. These treasures were done by famous Japanese artists and were given to the city as gifts by the visiting delegations from Japan. Some of the artwork includes pressed flower art, and 'kirie' which is made by cutting paper and pasting the pieces on a sheet of paper layer by layer.

One picture on display was done by Mr. Shigekazu Kurokawa, one of the most outstanding artists that Tsuchiyama has ever produced. He also did an 'old man' mask. The pottery pieces include a raccoon dog, a beautiful flower vase, and a Japanese tea set. There are also wall hangings, woven coasters and a carved wooden pheasant. There is a miniature temple and two full sized flags that represent Koka and Tsuchiyama. Some pictures show the history of Tsuchiyama in the 18th century. This is a must see collection of Japanese artwork and it is open to the public.

When the Japanese visit Traverse City some of the sites of interest are; Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore in Empire, the Dune Climb, Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive, Oleson buffalo farm, Tall Ship Manitou, Music House, Chateau Grand Traverse, Northport Lighthouse, shopping in downtown Traverse City and at the Grand Traverse Mall, Mackinac Island, Traverse City Public Library, and of course, Wuerfel Park where the Beach Bums play professional baseball.

City of Traverse City

Traverse City is a town of about 14,500 people, located in the heart of beautiful Grand Traverse County and Leelanau County in the northern part of the Lower Peninsula of the State of Michigan. It was incorporated in 1891as a village and in 1895 as a City. It encompasses 8.09 square miles and is 626 feet above sea level.

It is the heartbeat of Grand Traverse County serving as a County seat and hosting a vibrant downtown, with the Boardman River flowing through downtown not once, but twice, and to the north it is crowned by the crystal blue waters of Grand Traverse Bay and its golden beaches. Traverse City prides itself in its historical and thriving Downtown Traverse City, including Old Town, West End, and the Warehouse District. Sprinkled throughout the City’s corridors are unique stores and restaurants. The City is filled with the tree lined, historic neighborhoods as well as traditional and unique neighborhoods with well kept homes filled with involved and caring citizens. Traverse City is home to the National Cherry Festival, Traverse City Film Festival, Traverse City Opera House, Old Town Playhouse, Northwestern Michigan College and Munson Medical Center, a sophisticated medical facility serving all of northern Michigan. Altogether, Traverse City is a marvelous place to be!

Traverse City Area Chamber of Commerce boasts our business community as a “mix of industries, including advanced manufacturing, life sciences, agriculture, tourism, alternative energy, and research and development.”

City of Traverse City Website:
City of Koka Website: