Even native San Franciscans may not be familiar with San Francisco’s 18 “sister cities” all over the world, but our city’s history with its international counterparts is quite fascinating! The Sister Cities program started in 1956 to promote peaceful connections between cities across the globe, and Osaka, Japan became San Francisco’s first recognized sister city soon after in 1957. Here we dive into San Francisco’s relationships with its many sister cities, and how they’re recognized around town.
List of San Francisco sister cities
- Osaka, Japan (est. 1957, revoked 2018)
- Sydney, Australia (est. 1968)
- Taipei, Taiwan (est. 1969)
- Assisi, Italy (est. 1969)
- Haifa, Israel (est. 1973)
- Seoul, Republic of Korea (est. 1975)
- Shanghai, People’s Republic of China (est. 1979)
- Manila, Philippines (est. 1981)
- Cork, Ireland (est. 1984)
- Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire (est. 1986)
- Thessaloniki, Greece (est. 1990)
- Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam (est. 1995)
- Paris, France (est. 1997)
- Zurich, Switzerland (est. 2003)
- Bangalore, India (est. 2009)
- Krakow, Poland (est. 2009)
- Barcelona, Spain (est. 2010)
- Amman, Jordan (est. 2010)
- Kiel, Germany (est. 2017)
Sister Cities around town
Sister cities signpost at Hallidie Plaza
SF Public Works installed this signpost honoring all of its sister cities at Hallidie Plaza in June 2018. City names are ordered from top to bottom by how recently they were designated, with room for more. SFMTA created and installed the signs, and the Public Utilities Commission provided the pole.
Sister City Gardens
Yerba Buena Gardens has a display of Sister City Gardens along the length of its upper terrace above the Martin Luther King Jr. memorial. They feature flowering plants from across the international cities for a “global quilt of colors.” You can also find quotes from Dr. King translated and inscribed into the cities’ languages on the memorial below.
Koalas at SF Zoo
The San Francisco Zoo started their “Koala Crossing” habitat in 1985 when SF’s sister city of Sydney, Australia gifted the zoo with 2 koalas. The zoo has hosted many koalas over the years, and the animals are served freshly-cut eucalyptus leaves collected from around the Bay Area each day.
Chinese Pavilion at Stow Lake
Taipei, Taiwan presented San Francisco with a beautiful Chinese Pavilion in 1976. You can visit the beautifully-carved red structure at Stow Lake in Golden Gate Park, and it’s available for private reservations.
Aer Lingus at SFO
San Francisco’s sister city relationship with Dublin, Ireland’s was the basis for bringing the Aer Lingus airline to SFO Airport. As a result, a direct flight connection was established between San Francisco and Ireland for the first time in history.
SF’s rocky relationship with Osaka
Osaka, Japan was San Francisco’s first-designated sister city all the way back in 1957. They enjoyed many cultural exchanges for decades, with SF even renaming Buchanan Street as “Osaka Way” in 2007 for the 50th anniversary.
However, Osaka’s mayor Hirofumi Yoshimura terminated the sister city relationship after a private group erected a “Comfort Women” statue in San Francisco’s Chinatown district. The statue is meant to honor girls and women throughout Asia who were forced to work in frontline military brothels for Japan’s Imperial Army during World War II. Yoshimura sent a 10-page letter to Mayor London Breed in 2018 disputing the monument’s inscriptions implicating the Japanese government. You can learn more about the controversy in this NPR article.
Sister Cities International
Sister Cities International is the organization dedicated to fostering sister city relationships around the world, with a mission “to promote peace through mutual respect, understanding, and cooperation one individual, one community at a time.”
Featured image: @madeleine.adkins via Instagram