A friendship built for the ages:
A report on efforts and achievements from the cultural exchange which has bonded the districts of
Floridsdorf and Katsushika for over three decades now
The wonderful tradition of the so-called ‘partner cities’ links together a myriad of cities, towns, and districts of a great variety of countries; however, it is often the case that their representatives never actually meet in person and therefore remain partners only on paper. Still, there are exceptions to this trend. One such example of a rather active cultural and personal exchange is the partnership between Floridsdorf, the 21st district of Vienna, and the Katsushika district in Tōkyō, Japan. Led by the districts’ heads, Georg Papai from Austria and Katsunori Aoki from Japan, the delegations travel to their respective partner’s country relatively often, given the immense distance between them, in order to visit their districts. During their short trips, they try to learn as much as possible from their partner in terms of culture as well as administration and work in the district.
But how did it come to this fruitful, yet unlikely friendship? Legend has it, the former mayor of Vienna, Helmut Zilk, has had a major role to play in the forging of their strong bond. One of his many business trips led him to Japan, where he stumbled over a Tora-san film in the in-flight entertainment system. This film series’ iconic protagonist is a man, who lives in the Katsushika district in Tōkyō and is frequently plagued by the desire to flee his boring life. And so, he loves to travel around Japan, and promptly falls in love with a beautiful local woman who doesn’t ever feel the same. Finally, however, he gets so homesick every single time that he is glad to come home again. Upon seeing that film, an interesting idea pops into Zilk’s head. The Viennese mayor immediately sees parallels between Tora-san’s home district and the district of Floridsdorf back home, for example that both are situated on the outskirts of the city, dotted with huge green spaces, and are traversed by a wide river.
As soon as the former mayor returns back home, Zilk suggests a partnership between the two districts. On November 2, 1987, a treaty of friendship is signed, which proclaims that the partners want to learn from each other in order to “improve the friendly relationship between Austria and Japan, and to sustain world peace.” Two years later, Tora-san travels to Austria and explores Vienna in the 41st episode “Tora-san Goes To Vienna.” It can hardly be considered coincidence that this is also the first time that he travels to a place outside of Japan. To this day, Tora-san stays in our minds as an important linking element in the friendship between the two districts.
The fact that the partners still have such a good relationship with each other after more than 30 years is undoubtedly due to the regular personal contact as well as the constant efforts of both sides to keep in touch. And so, the delegation from Katsushika returned to Vienna from the 7th to the 11th of November 2018 in order to visit their friends in Floridsdorf again.
Olivia Weiß reports directly from this eventful visit.
Text: Olivia Weiß
Translation: Adam Greguš, Leonie Krösslhuber
Studies Japanese Studies at the University of Vienna and finished the bachelor’s degree in English and American Studies.
Her mother is Japanese and has been interpreting for the Katsushika delegation for more than 25 years.