San Jose, often called the “Capital of Silicon Valley,” is in the heart of Northern California. As the third-largest city in the state, San Jose is famous for its technological innovation companies and thriving economy.
In the picturesque Santa Clara Valley, San Jose boasts a unique blend of historic charm and modern sophistication. And as with almost every large city, it has its share of sister cities. Keep reading to learn about eight fabulous destinations that are the San Jose sister cities.
What Is a Sister City?
A sister city, sometimes called a twin town or twinning, is a relationship between two cities in different countries. It aims to promote friendship, cultural exchange, and cooperation. Community organizations, local governments, and sometimes individuals initiate these partnerships.
Sister cities have multiple goals. These include fostering an understanding of different cultures, encouraging education exchanges, promoting tourism, facilitating trade and economic opportunities, and providing humanitarian help if needed.
President Dwight D. Eisenhower created the Sister Cities International Program in 1956. According to Sister Cities International, he envisioned a network that would promote peace and understanding by fostering bonds with communities across the globe, especially after WWII.
Today, hundreds of U.S. cities participate in the Sister City program, connecting with over 2,000 communities worldwide. San Jose, CA, has eight sister cities on three continents.
Okayama, Japan, is the oldest sister city of San Jose. The relationship was established in 1957, only a year after the program started, making Okayama the third sister city relationship in the entire nation.
Okayama is in the Chugoku region of Japan, situated on the southern coast of Honshu Island, the largest of Japan’s four main islands. The city, well known for its rich history and stunning gardens, earned its nickname as the “Land of Sunshine” due to its relatively mild climate and abundant sunshine throughout the year.
One noticeable difference between San Jose and Okayama is the cities’ history. While San Jose is still recent, Okayama’s history dates back over 10,000 years, with the first settlements. The city used to be a castle town and is still home to one of its famous landmarks, Okayama Castle, often called the “Crow Castle” due to its dark exterior. This castle symbolizes the city’s historical significance and offers a glimpse into Japan’s samurai heritage.
Things to See and Do in Okayama
One of Okayama’s best attractions is across the castle and the Asahi River. The stunning Korakuen Garden is one of Japan’s top three traditional gardens. This meticulously landscaped garden features ponds, bridges, walking paths, and meticulously pruned trees. It’s a popular destination for locals and tourists, particularly during the cherry blossom season when the garden bursts into a display of pink and white blossoms.
Culturally, Okayama also has much to offer. The city’s annual Momotaro Festival celebrates the iconic folk hero Momotaro, also known as “Peach Boy.” Visitors across Japan and beyond flock to the city to celebrate the boy who grew from a peach. Okayama is also famous for its traditional Bizen-yaki pottery, known for its earthy, unglazed textures and rustic aesthetic.
San José, Costa Rica
The partnership between San Jose, CA, and San José, Costa Rica, was established in 1961. For over 60 years, this sister program sponsored numerous exchanges and cultural activities.
Nestled in the heart of Central America, San José is the capital and largest city of Costa Rica. Located in the central part of the country, it serves as the political, economic, and cultural center of Costa Rica.
San José, founded in 1738, was a small settlement called “Villa Nueva de la Boca del Monte.” The was a key center city for revolutionary activities in the 19th century. Today, it is a testament to Costa Rica’s commitment to democracy and peace. The country abolished its army in 1949 and became a hub for international organizations such as the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.
Things to See and Do in San José
Nestled within the Central Valley, the city is surrounded by picturesque mountains. Near San José is the Poás Volcano National Park. This park features an active volcano with a stunning crater lake. There are also hiking trails and educational opportunities for volcanic activity.
San José also offers a plethora of attractions for locals and tourists. The National Museum of Costa Rica, housed in a historic fort, showcases the country’s natural and cultural history. For a taste of the city’s urban life, Avenida Central and Mercado Central are perfect spots to explore with shops, cafes, street vendors, and yummy food. The Simon Bolivar Zoo and La Sabana Metropolitan Park provide a green escape within the city.
In San José, inhabitants deeply cherish their rich heritage. Visitors can explore this cultural tapestry through the city’s museums, theaters, and festivals. The city boasts a thriving arts scene with venues like the National Theater, an architectural masterpiece that hosts world-class performances. Costa Ricans, often called “Ticos,” are known for their warmth and hospitality, making visitors feel genuinely welcome.
San Jose and Veracruz, Mexico, became sister cities in 1975. The sister program helped to sponsor numerous exchanges and cultural activities.
Often referred to as “Puerto de Veracruz” to distinguish it from the state of Veracruz it belongs to, it is a vibrant and historically significant city on the eastern coast, along the Gulf of Mexico.
The city’s history traces back to the early 16th century when it was one of the first Spanish settlements in Mexico. The city served as the gateway for Spanish conquistadors, notably Hernán Cortés, who arrived here in 1519 before his conquest of the Aztec Empire. Many landmarks commemorate the historical significance, including the Baluarte de Santiago, a fortress built to defend against pirate attacks (now a museum), and the city’s captivating Old Town.
Things to See and Do in Veracruz
Veracruz offers a lot for visitors to explore. The historic city center, with its colonial architecture and lively Zócalo (town square), is a captivating place to wander. The Naval Museum within the Baluarte Santiago provides insight into the city’s maritime history. The city’s beaches, including Playa Villa del Mar and Playa Martí, offer sun-soaked relaxation and water sports.
One of Veracruz’s most renowned attractions is the annual Carnival of Veracruz, celebrated with vibrant parades, music, and street dancing. This carnival, one of Mexico’s largest and oldest, attracts revelers from across the nation and beyond.
Veracruz is known for its vibrant and diverse culture, influenced by Indigenous, Spanish, and African traditions. The city’s streets often come alive with the sounds of musicians playing traditional instruments like the jarana and requinto. Veracruz is also famous for its cuisine, with dishes like “Huachinango a la Veracruzana” (red snapper Veracruz-style) and “Arroz a la Tumbada” (rice with seafood) being local specialties.
Tainan, Taiwan, is the fourth-oldest sister city of San Jose after their partnership was established in 1977, just two years after Veracruz. The partnership helped support the San Jose Downtown Doors Project in 2016. It also promoted SJC airport to airlines for direct flights to Taiwan and other Asian countries. This sister program also sponsored numerous exchanges and cultural activities.
Located in the southwestern part of Taiwan, Tainan is steeped in history and culture. As Taiwan’s oldest city, Tainan holds a special place in the hearts of its residents. On Taiwan’s western coast, this historic city sits between the rolling hills of the Central Mountain Range and the azure waters of the Taiwan Strait.
Tainan’s roots go back to indigenous Taiwanese tribes. During the 17th century, Tainan became the capital of the Dutch colony of Formosa, followed by its role as the capital of the Ming and Qing Dynasties. As a result, the city boasts an astonishing array of historical sites, including ancient temples, colonial-era forts, and preserved Qing Dynasty architecture. The Chihkan Tower, a fortress built by the Dutch in the 17th century, and the Koxinga Shrine, honoring a Ming Dynasty hero, are examples of the city’s historical treasures.
Things to See and Do in Tainan
The city has many notable attractions, including the picturesque Anping Old Street, where visitors can explore charming alleyways, sample local snacks, and learn about Taiwan’s maritime history at the Anping Tree House. Visitors can explore the Taijiang National Park, a wetland paradise with various aquatic and bird species.
Culturewise, traditional Chinese customs meld with Taiwanese and indigenous traditions, creating a rich and diverse cultural tapestry. The city is renowned for its delicious street food, including savory oyster omelets and aromatic rice cakes, offering a delectable taste of local culinary culture.
San Jose and Dublin, Ireland, became sister cities in 1986. This partnership hallmark is Its main activity over the planning and producing the City of San José’s annual “Irish Week” each March. The Lord Mayor and an official Dublin delegation attend the event. This sister program also sponsored numerous exchanges and cultural activities and introduced the annual Spirit of Ireland Award.
Dublin, Ireland’s capital and largest city, is a vibrant and historic metropolis located on the east coast of the “Emerald Isle.” Situated at the mouth of the River Liffey, Dublin is a must-visit destination for travelers worldwide.
Founded by the Vikings in the 9th century, it evolved into a bustling medieval city and became the center of British rule in Ireland for many centuries. The city played a significant role in Ireland’s struggle for independence, with the 1916 Easter Rising being a pivotal moment in its history. Today, remnants of its rich past can be seen in its historic architecture, including the imposing Dublin Castle, Trinity College, and the Georgian-style townhouses that line the streets.
Things to See and Do in Dublin
A must-visit is Trinity College, home to the University of Dublin, established over 400 years ago. The Guinness Storehouse, located at the St. James’s Gate Brewery, offers an immersive experience of the history and making of Ireland’s iconic stout beer. For history enthusiasts, Kilmainham Gaol provides insight into Ireland’s struggle for independence, while the Dublin Castle showcases the city’s medieval past. The serene St. Patrick’s Cathedral, founded in 1191, is an architectural masterpiece.
Dublin has extensive links with literary giants such as James Joyce, Samuel Beckett, and W.B. Yeats. Visit the Marsh’s Library, which opened to the public in 1707, the oldest in Ireland. The city also has numerous theaters, galleries, and the annual Dublin Theatre Festival. Music is also at the heart of Dublin’s culture, with lively traditional Irish music sessions in pubs and venues across the city.
A year after the end of the Cold War, in 1992, San Jose and Ekaterinburg, Russia, became sister cities. This partnership has been recently threatened due to the invasion and war against Ukraine. However, San Jose’s mayor, Sam Liccardo, decided not to split it.
“Its pioneers believed sister cities could provide a path for international bridge-building among citizens despite whatever evil that might be perpetrated by specific regimes. If we terminate a “sister city” relationship because of the evil actions of a national regime, then the entire program has little purpose,” Mayor Liccardo said in a statement. Before this, the partnership was relatively inactive as San Jose didn’t send a delegation there in the last decade.
Ekaterinburg, often spelled Yekaterinburg, is in the Ural Mountains region of Russia. The city serves as the administrative center of Sverdlovsk Oblast and is the country’s fourth-largest city.
Founded in 1723 by Tsar Peter the Great’s decree, the city was named after his wife, Catherine I (Yekaterina I). It gained global notoriety as the place where the last Russian Emperor, Nicholas II, and his family were executed during the Russian Revolution in 1918. The site of their execution, the Ipatiev House, is now part of a museum.
Things to See and Do in Ekaterinburg
Ekaterinburg boasts a range of attractions for visitors. The Church on the Blood, built on the site of the Romanovs’ execution, is a historically significant landmark. Beyond its historical sites, the city is surrounded by natural beauty, with the Ural Mountains offering ample opportunities for hiking and outdoor adventures. Additionally, the Vysotsky Skyscraper, one of Russia’s tallest buildings, provides breathtaking panoramic views of the city and its surroundings.
The city’s thriving arts scene is exemplified by venues like the Yekaterinburg Opera and Ballet Theater, which showcases world-class performances. Ekaterinburg’s culinary scene also reflects its cosmopolitan nature, offering a fusion of Russian, European, and Asian cuisine in its diverse restaurants and cafes.
Pune, India, and San Jose became sister cities in 1992. Both cities share a lot of similarities. Pune and San Jose have a rich history and are also main centers for education and high-tech industries.
In the past, a statue of Shivaji Maharaj was gifted to the people of San Jose by the people of Pune. This statue is now in Guadalupe Park and is the only statue of Shivaji Maharaj in North America. Another project also provided financial assistance to economically disadvantaged female students in Pune.
Pune, also called “Poona,” the “Oxford of the East,” or the “Cultural Capital of Maharashtra,” is located in the western state of Maharashtra, India. Situated approximately 93 miles (150 kilometers) southeast of Mumbai, Pune is nestled in the Deccan Plateau at about 1,837 feet (560 meters) above sea level. This strategic location contributes to Pune’s prominence as an educational, cultural, and industrial hub.
Pune’s history goes back approximately 1,600 years. However, it gained significant prominence during the Maratha Empire in the 17th and 18th centuries under the rule of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj and later the Peshwas. It served as the second capital of the British Indian Empire from 1817 to 1947. Pune also played a pivotal role in the Indian freedom movement.
Things to See and Do in Pune
Pune is home to several notable attractions. The Shaniwar Wada Palace, once the Peshwa dynasty’s seat, symbolizes the city’s rich history. The Aga Khan Palace, where Mahatma Gandhi and other freedom fighters were interned during the British rule, is another historical gem. The Osho International Meditation Resort draws spiritual seekers from around the world.
Its proximity to the Western Ghats also allows outdoor enthusiasts to explore scenic hill stations and trekking trails nearby.
Pune’s culture is extremely rich and blends tradition and modernity. It has a vibrant music and arts scene, including classical music, theater, and dance performances. The city celebrates various festivals, including Ganesh Chaturthi, Diwali, and Gudi Padwa. Traditional Maharashtrian cuisine, featuring delectable dishes like puran poli and vada pav, is a must-try for food enthusiasts.
It is also famous for its academic institutions, including the prestigious University of Pune and various top-notch engineering and management colleges. The city boasts a thriving IT and software industry, attracting professionals worldwide. This cosmopolitan mix infuses Pune with a dynamic and diverse cultural scene.
Guadalajara, Mexico, is the latest addition to San Jose’s sister cities in 2014. And these cities have one significant similarity. San Jose is famous for the “Silicon Valley” in relation to all the large tech companies located near the city. In recent years, Guadalajara earned the “Silicon Valley of Mexico” nickname. With its 600 technology companies, the city often trades with Mexico. Thanks to their partnership, they promote cultural and economic activities between the two cities.
Often referred to as the “Pearl of the West,” Guadalajara is in western Mexico, approximately 220 miles (350 kilometers) west of Mexico City. Located in the state of Jalisco and the valley of the Rio Grande de Santiago, Guadalajara is the capital and largest city in the region. Its unique blend of history, culture, and modernity makes it a fascinating destination for travelers and a thriving local hub.
Founded in 1542 by Spanish explorer Cristóbal de Oñate, Guadalajara has a rich and extensive history. It played a crucial role in Mexico’s struggle for independence from Spanish colonial rule in the early 19th century. Today, remnants of its colonial past remain in the city’s historic architecture, including its majestic cathedrals and plazas.
Things to See and Do in Guadalajara
Guadalajara has several attractions that boast the city’s culture and history. The Hospicio Cabañas, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is a 19th-century building known for its intricate murals by Mexican artist Jose Clemente Orozco. The historic center of Guadalajara, including landmarks like the Guadalajara Cathedral and the Government Palace, provides a glimpse into the city’s colonial past.
The city’s bustling Mercado Libertad, also known as the San Juan de Dios Market, offers a wide range of traditional Mexican goods, from handicrafts to street food. For art enthusiasts, the Instituto Cultural Cabañas houses a collection of Orozco’s murals and other contemporary art exhibitions.
Guadalajara’s location in the heart of Jalisco also provides easy access to the Tequila region, where visitors can explore tequila distilleries and learn about the production of Mexico’s iconic spirit.
Guadalajara is a must-stop in terms of culture, as it is regarded as the cultural heart of Mexico. The city is famous for contributing to Mexican culture, particularly in music and dance. Born in the state of Jalisco, the Mariachi music, with its vibrant melodies and folkloric charm, is celebrated throughout Guadalajara. The city also hosts the International Mariachi and Charro Festival, drawing musicians and enthusiasts worldwide.
Guadalajara also has a vibrant art scene, with numerous galleries and museums showcasing traditional and contemporary Mexican art. The Teatro Degollado, an architectural gem, hosts ballet, opera, and classical music performances.
The photo featured at the top of this post is © Uladzik Kryhin/Shutterstock.com
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