San Diego’s Girl in Red Shoes bronze sculpture waits humbly near the Friendship Bell at the tip of Shelter Island. It symbolizes the many decades of friendship between sister ports, the Port of San Diego and the Port of Yokohama. This gift is considered very intimate gesture by the Japanese, San Diego’s statue compliments a famous statue in Yamashita Park in Yokohama.


Bronze sculpture

The rose represents Yokohama and the carnation symbolizes San Diego.

Location: 32°42’30.2″N 117°14’01.6″W

Artist:  Munehiro Komeno

Learn: The Yokohama statue, The Little Girl with Red Shoes On, was created after one of the most famous songs in Japan, a hymn that sings of the Port of Yokohama. Almost every Japanese person has heard or sung “Akai Kutsu” (“Red Shoes”).at one time or another.

“The Girl in Red Shoes” was presented as a gift to the Port of San Diego and the citizens of San Diego to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the opening of the Port of Yokohama, Japan. The artwork was unveiled by Port of San Diego officials and Yokohama delegates on June 27, 2010.

The inscription on the new signboard at the exhibit reads, “The bronze sculpture ‘The Girl in Red Shoes’ by Munehiro Komeno was presented to the Citizens of San Diego by the citizens of Yokohama for eternal friendship and to commemorate the 150th Anniversary of the Yokohama Port Opening, June 2, 1859.”

There have been other gifts from the citizens of Yokohama. The Helen-Borshers Flowering Peach Tree was presented to San Diego to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the San Diego-Yokohama affiliation. But the most impressive is the two and one-half ton bronze Friendship Bell, by artist Masahiko Katori. It was presented to San Diego by the citizens of Yokohama in May 1958 as part of the Centennial Celebration of formal relations between Japan and the United States — the first such affiliation on the West Coast. But the relationship between San Diego and Yokohama goes back long before their Sister Cities relationship.

On March 31, 1854, the Convention of Kanagawa (Japanese: 日米和親条約 or the Japan–US Treaty of Peace and Amity) became the first treaty between the United States of America and the Tokugawa Shogunate. Signed under threat of force, it effectively ended Japan’s 220-year-old policy of national seclusion by opening the ports of Shimoda and Hakodate to American vessels. It also established an American consul in Japan, expediting the signing of similar treaties establishing diplomatic relations with other western powers.

The Kanagawa Treaty between the U.S. and Japan initiated one of the closest political, cultural, and economic relationships of our time. As sister cities San Diego and Yokohama continue to celebrate a genuine friendship and shared values and promote the Sister City goals of world peace through better understanding.

Sister Cities, also known as twin towns are a form of legal or social agreement between geographically and politically distinct areas to promote cultural and commercial ties. The earliest known town twinning in Europe was between Paderborn, Germany, and Le Mans, France, in 836. The first recorded modern twinning agreement was between Keighley and Poix-du-Nord in Nord, France, following the end of the First World War.

The practice of Sister Cities continued after the Second World War as a way to promote mutual understanding and cross-border projects of mutual benefit. The modern concept of town twinning, conceived after the Second World War in 1947, was intended to foster friendship and understanding between different cultures and between former foes as an act of peace and to encourage trade and tourism.  In recent times, town twinning has increasingly been used to form strategic international business links between member cities.

For example, Coventry twinned with Stalingrad and later with Dresden as an act of peace and reconciliation, all three cities having been heavily bombed during the war. Rome and Paris are exclusively and reciprocally twinned with each other, following the motto: “Only Paris is worthy of Rome; only Rome is worthy of Paris.

The U.S. Sister City program formally began in 1956 when President Dwight D. Eisenhower proposed a people-to-people citizen diplomacy initiative. Thanks to its growth and popularity, Sister Cities International has grown into a nonprofit citizen diplomacy network that creates and strengthens partnerships between communities in the US and other countries. Today, there are more than 2,000 cities, states and counties are partnered in 136 countries.

One of San Diego’s most successful Sister City projects has been the student exchange program. Upon returning home, many students became leaders in education, government, and industry.


Why did Japan give the San Diego The Girl in Red Shoes?

How did the U.S. and Japan become such close political allies?

What are some of the benefits of a Sister City relationship?

Which city would you choose as your Sister City and why?

Choose an American song to share with the world. Why did you choose that song?

10 Ways to Enjoy:

  1. Compose a haiku about your shoes.
  2. Pray for someone you miss.
  3. Jog around the perimeter 3 times.
  4. Play tag using the trees as a safe zone.
  5. Sit in the grass.
  6. Contemplate life’s ironies.
  7. Eat sushi.
  8. Feel the stillness.
  9. Think about what you would do on a visit to Yokohama.
  10. Choose your personal Sister City.

Share your fun:  #SanDiBAT

Newspaper cartoon of Commodore Matthew Perry, who played a leading role in the opening of Japan.

More: The girl in the song “Akai Kutsu” is Kimi, an orphan in Japan in the 1920s. An American couple adopted her and planned to bring her to the United States. However, it was later learned that Kimi had tuberculosis and could not leave Japan. The story of Kimi, of which there are many versions, became a national symbol of goodwill between the United States and Japan.

There is a third statue of the Little Girl with Red Shoes in Tokyo. On the day it was first unveiled someone left 40 yen at its feet. A charity was born, and to date, millions of yen have been collected and donated to UNESCO and other childcare charities.