What is the Chattanooga Tono Friendship Committee?

The Chattanooga Tono Friendship Committee was established in 2015 as a grassroots initiative to deepen ties between the cities of Chattanooga, Tennessee, USA and Tono, Iwate, Japan.

For over 25 years, Chattanooga and Tono have exchanged students in an annual exchange program. Through countless personal experiences of not just the students themselves, but also the host families, friends, and others associated with the program, several citizens of both Chattanooga and Tono have developed a deep interest in each other’s homeland & culture.

Based on a relationship of friendship and trust built from years of international exchange, the Chattanooga Tono Friendship Committee aims to establish an official connection between Chattanooga and Tono by becoming sister cities, in addition to continuing our successful student exchanges and expanding our joint activities to culture, business, tourism, and other mutually beneficial areas.

Thanks to the support of the Chattanooga Sister City Association, the Tono Education & Culture Foundation, and our membership consisting of motivated volunteers, we play an active role in promoting Chattanooga-Tono relations.

If you are interested in becoming a part of the Chattanooga Tono Friendship Committee, please click here to learn more about becoming a member.

History of Chattanooga-Tono relations

It all started in 1990 when the high schools of Tono, Iwate, Japan and the Chattanooga School for the Arts & Sciences (CSAS) in Chattanooga, Tennessee, USA were paired by School Partners Abroad to establish an exchange program.

Near the end of every Japanese school year, a delegation of Tono high-school students visited Chattanooga, and reciprocally, a delegation from CSAS visited Tono every summer. The city of Tono embraced this exchange and organized a delegation of junior high school students to visit CSAS and the Chattanooga School for the Liberal Arts (CSLA) a few weeks before the high school students.

The idea is simple, but the stories and lives that have been positively affected by this program are profound. Now, 25 years into a vibrant and successful program, the exchange is known to those involved as an invaluable asset and experience.

However, the program has not lasted without its fair share of adversity. The September 11, 2001 terrorist attack was one catalyst of trouble, causing students’ families in both cities to reconsider sending their children on an international flight during a time of uncertainty for air travel safety. Things had finally returned to normal when another disaster struck: the March 11, 2011 earthquake & tsunami that severely affected Tono and the surrounding Tohoku region of Japan. As a result, the high school exchange program was suspended and is currently in the process of restarting.

Even through trying times, the friendship between citizens of Chattanooga and Tono has kept an important relationship going. With this background, interested parties from both cities came together to form what are now joint friendship committees: Chattanooga-Tono (based in Chattanooga) and Tono-Chattanooga (based in Tono).

Leadership

Chair

  • Strat Parrott
    Strat participated in the Tono CSAS exchange as a student and as a result gained the perspective to do business with Japanese companies. As the President of Chattanooga-based Juncture LLC, Strat brings his firm’s marketing and promotion experience to further our cause.

Vice-Chairs

  • Parker J. Allen
    Parker participated in the Tono CSAS exchange as a student and as a result decided to pursue education and career in Japan. As COO of Tokyo-based public affairs consulting firm Langley Esquire and proficient in the Japanese language, Parker is in close contact with stakeholders in Tono to ensure that we move forward with a shared vision.
  • Linda Allen
    Having the experience of hosting several Tono exchange students, Linda is a committed volunteer in addition to being a registered architect and Southeast Planning Manager for Unum Corporation. Linda brings volunteer leadership experience as former Tennessee President of the American Institute of Architects and Chairman of ACE Chattanooga.

Advisors

  • Louisa Mesich
    One of the most known and respected retired faculty of the Chattanooga School for the Arts & Sciences, Louisa helped facilitate the educational exchange program that has continued to benefit students from CSAS, CSLA, and Tono city schools.
  • Jim Boles
    Principal Boles has been a strong supporter of the educational exchange program between CSAS and Tono and has made it one of his goals as Principal to further global citizenship among Chattanooga’s youth. Principal Boles has agreed to continue supporting the Tono CSAS exchange program that forms a key part of our ongoing friendship outreach.