Osaka Mayor to Terminate 60-Year Ties with San Francisco, Established by a Greek-American

December 2, 2017

OSAKA, Japan – Osaka mayor to terminate six-decade ties as San Francisco designates “comfort women” memorial city property. The mayor of one of Japan’s largest cities, Hirofumi Yoshimura, said that “the sister-city relationship of trust is gone. I’ll undertake measures to dissolve it,” according to the Japan Times.

Sixty years ago, the Greek-American immigrant George Christopher led the mayoral effort to establish the San Francisco-Osaka Sister City Association in 1957. The association is San Francisco’s oldest sister-city relationship.

Christopher was a liberal Republican mayor whose legend is attached to his bringing San Francisco into the big leagues, figuratively and literally. He convinced the New York Giants baseball team to move to the “New York of the West Coast.” The warmer climate was one appeal, along with the diverse and competitive business environment, and the promise to build Candlestick Park, which was erected next to San Francisco Bay. He presided over much city revitalization, including Japantown (“Little Osaka”), in the Western Addition district.

“Now Osaka’s mayor is behaving like the miffed little brother in this city relationship by picking up his marbles to go home. This is sibling rivalry with nation brand image implications, much worse for Japan than for the United States or South Korea. Like some of his kin in the Diet, the Osaka mayor doth protest too much. His words serve well the cause to criticize Japan for not giving full airing to the comfort women. The more Japan complains, the more attention it draws to the activism around the issue,”  the Japanese newspaper says.

George Christopher (Christophes) born in Arcadia, Greece, the son of James and Mary (nee Koines) Christophes. He and his family emigrated to the United States in 1910 and settled in San Francisco’s South of Market Street neighborhood, then known as “Greektown”, when Christopher was two years old.

Christopher was known for his strong stand on civil rights; his childhood experience of anti-Greek sentiment informed his stand. He gained worldwide headlines offering his home to Willie Mays after it was reported that a Forest Hill realtor had refused to sell to Mays. Christopher also lobbied and succeeded in opening mental health and alcohol treatment centers under city funding.


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