Monday, 20th August 2018
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Successful visit opens up new opportunities for Waterford

Last Thursday 26th July, the Lafcadio Hearn Japanese Gardens, Tramore was visited by His Excellency Ambassador Kevin Vickers, Canada's Ambassador to Ireland. He was joined in this visit by a delegation from the Nikka Yuko Japanese Gardens, Lethbridge Canada and a member of the Lethbridge Destination Management Organisation (City of Tourism).

This was the start of a three day visit by the delegation which would see the Nikka Yuko Japanese Garden and the Lafcadio Hearn Japanese Garden come together in friendship. This joint initiative was inspired by the upcoming Ambassadors visit to the gardens which would celebrate Lafcadio Hearn's penultimate journey across Canada on the Canadian Pacific Railway.

Initially planned as a simple exchange of friendship certificates the visit was quickly seen by the management of the two gardens as an opportunity to spur greater transatlantic ties for many years to come between their regions, both of which hold many similarities and are traditionally outside the most popular tourism routes in their own countries.

On Thursday the Ambassador and delegation were given a tour of the beautiful Lafcadio Hearn Japanese Gardens by Keith Guinan and were later joined by Waterford Band 'Newfoundland' for a welcome reception. This afforded the band an opportunity to talk to Ambassador Vickers about their upcoming trip to Newfoundland and he was very happy to be interviewed along with Agnes Aylward (Project Director of the Lafcadio Hearn Japanese Gardens) on their experiences in relation to Newfoundland for the band's forthcoming documentary.

On Friday, Mayor of Waterford City and County Declan Doocey and Metropolitan Mayor Joe Kelly welcomed the Ambassador and Delegation to a reception in City Hall. Ambassador Vickers said "We share the same History, DNA, the same names, act like each other and even look like each other. Now I delighted to hear that our friends from Lethbridge have received such a warm welcome here in Waterford and are sharing experiences."

The Ambassador also reflected on the writings of Lafcadio Hearn as he made his across Canada on his way to Japan in 1890.

Following the Mayoral Reception, events moved back to the Lafcadio Hearn Japanese Gardens, however due to the extreme heavy showers their honoured guests and visitors were transferred to Tramore Community Centre which overlooks the gardens. The Lafcadio Hearn Japanese Gardens expressed their extreme gratitude to Mary Morrissey, local volunteer who quickly obtained the keys and redirected everyone into a much drier environment.

Following a welcome by Anne Harpur (Chairperson of Tramore Development Trust), Metropolitan Mayor Joe Kelly spoke to a packed room saying: 'I hope the links between the two countries can develop, starting from today and after all here we are in Tramore the best tourist resort in the country and what better way to begin a new friendship between the two regions who face the same challenges and goals".

Agnes Aylward (Project Director of the Lafcadio Hearn Japanese Gardens), welcomed everyone and quoted Edmund Burke on Friendship and Kinship 'friendship is the tie that binds and though as light as air is as strong as rods of iron and let us hope that the ties created today between both regions through our common Japanese interests will remain strong.

Brad Hembroff (President of the Lethbridge & District Japanese Garden Society), commended Agnes and Janet on their tremendous work despite the similar challenges they faced in their respective gardens, pointing out also that both gardens had been visited by members of the Imperial Japanese Royal Family last year, the Princesses Takamado. Brad also thanked everyone in Waterford City and County for their generosity and great hospitality.

Ambassador Kevin Vickers also spoke to the room,and personally saluted Agnes Aylward on her leadership and foresight in developing the Lafcadio Hearn Japanese Gardens, he also thanked Mayor Doocey for his hospitality and the welcome he had afforded them in the city.

Following an exchange of Friendship Certificates, Ambassador Vickers was presented with gifts from Patrick and Kian Flynn on behalf of the Lafcadio Hearn Japanese Gardens and this was followed by the official planting of a Canadian Pine Tree which will now rest in the gardens as a permanent reminder of Hearn's journey across Canada and the development of new friendships there.

Throughout the visit a series of discussions were held and work has already begun on developing opportunities between the two regions. The delegation over the three days also visited many other local attractions in the City and County including a trip along Waterford's magnificent coastline. Ambassador Vickers enjoyed the stunning views of the Copper Coast on Friday, while the delegation took in the beauty of Dunmore East and our eastern coastline led by Waterford Camino Tours on Saturday.

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