The Sister City agreement with Tendo City was signed in 1989.
Tendo is a city of some 65,000 people located in Yamagata prefecture in the northern portion of the main island of Japan called Honshu. The town is an agricultural service centre for the growing of fruit including cherries, plus has a wide variety of manufacturing industries. Its economic base and landscape are similar to that of Marlborough.
As a result of desire by Marlborough cherry growers to export to Japan, a delegation of Marlborough growers visited Japan in 1983, and in particular the Yamagata prefecture. This was in recognition of Yamagata's role as a major Japanese cherry producer for its own domestic market.
It was recognised by the Marlborough growers that the co-operation and acceptance by the Yamagata cherry growers themselves would be necessary before exports of Marlborough cherries to Japan could begin. The negotiations and agricultural clearances for the export of Marlborough cherries to Japan took some years. During this process which involved exchange visits by both Marlborough and Tendo growers and agricultural specialists, close friendships evolved. This culminated in the signing of a Marlborough/Tendo Sister City Agreement in 1989
Since that date there have been many exchange visits, starting with the visits by both city governments for the signing of the Sister Agreement. Visits to Japan have also been made by social groups (e.g. Marlborough District Band), and from Japan by special interest groups (including members of farming and fruit growing co-operatives).
Every year students (in later years this has been consistent at four students), with an accompanying adult (usually a teacher), from Tendo’s Junior High Schools visit Marlborough in March. A reciprocal visit by four Marlborough students (and accompanying teacher) visit Tendo in July. This is now an established educational exchange with great support from all Marlborough Colleges.
The Japanese style garden in Harling Park was initiated and designed by an architect from Tendo. Over the years very generous gifts of money from Tendo have helped to fund the building of the garden (in conjunction with countless hours by local volunteers and reserve funds from the Sister City account).
Harling Park Japanese garden was opened in 2005 (a delegation of some 30 people came from Tendo for the occasion).