Do you know that “taco” means “octopus” in Japanese? You can bet by the time four Santa Barbara area teenagers return from an August visit to the Land of the Rising Sun that they’ll know that vocabulary word and a lot more.
Sponsored by the Santa Barbara-Toba Sister City Organization, the family-to-family exchange program started in 1991. Students from Japan visit Santa Barbara first. Their trip coincides with Old Spanish Days Fiesta and lasts for about 10 days.

A few days after the Japanese students return home, the Santa Barbara students fly to Japan for a reciprocal visit of equal length. The scheduling allows for participating in Obon festivals. Held in mid-August, Obon is the nationwide celebration of honoring one’s ancestors.

The four local teens are Colin William Lancashire and Douglas Clinton Throop II of Santa Barbara and Nicole Kee and Sofia Vazquez of the Santa Ynez Valley.
Much like its Santa Barbara sister, Toba is well known for its natural beauty, climate, cuisine and hospitality. Nestled on the Pacific Coast against the mountains, Toba is 250 miles south of Tokyo, Japan’s capital, and a two-hour train ride from Kyoto, Japan’s cultural capital.

Internationally, Toba may be best known as the home of Mikimoto Pearls. Pearl diving shows, a pearl museum and Mikimoto Pearl Island are popular tourist attractions. Additionally, Japan’s largest marine aquarium also calls Toba home.
Founded in 1966, the Santa Barbara-Toba Sister City Organization is the oldest active Sister City organization in Santa Barbara. Along with other local Sister City groups, Santa Barbara-Toba is affiliated with Sister Cities International and a member of the Santa Barbara Sister Cities board.

Santa Barbara-Toba is a self-supporting, nonprofit corporation and receives no funding from the city of Santa Barbara or any public agency.

Takako Wakita represents the Santa Barbara-Toba Sister City Organization.