Bellevue has four sister cities, in Taiwan, Japan, the Czech Republic and Latvia. Separately, Bellevue has international trade cooperation efforts underway with cities in China and India. These international efforts enrich the cultural and business profile of our city, and they provide a meaningful connection between Bellevue's richly diverse population and numerous areas across the globe.
The sister city concept evolved from President Eisenhower's "People-to-People" program, established in 1956 to lessen the chance of future world conflicts and to involve people from all walks of life in personal diplomacy. The City of Bellevue works closely with the Bellevue Sister Cities Association, a nonprofit organization, to further the goals of Sister Cities International.
Bellevue’s sister city relationship with Yao grew from a meeting of the two cities at an International Junior Chamber of Commerce Convention in 1963. In 1969, Mayor Ohashi led an official delegation from Japan to Bellevue for the formal signing of the proclamation.
In 1970, the City of Bellevue invited residents to organize a support organization, the International Cooperation Committee of Bellevue (now the Bellevue Sister Cities Association).
To honor its relationship with Yao, Bellevue established the Yao Japanese Garden at Kelsey Creek Park in 1971. The garden was relocated to the Bellevue Botanical Garden in 1992 and officially opened in 1994 to celebrate the 25-year anniversary of the cities' partnership.
An exhibit of Yao's Kawachi cotton was held at Bellevue City Hall in 2001. In 2009 Mayor Seita Tanaka and other Yao officials visited Bellevue to celebrate 40 years of our being sister cities (video of gift presentation). In 2018, Mayor Lynne Robinson visited Yao and helped the city celebrate its 70th anniversary. In 2019, a delegation from Yao visited Bellevue to recognize of 50 years of sisterhood.
Due to the interest of Bellevue citizens of Taiwanese extraction, members of the Bellevue City Council and the Bellevue Sister Cities Association visited Hualien in 1984. They formed an affiliation shortly after that trip.
City Council members, including Conrad Lee, Chuck Mosher and then-Mayor Connie Marshall joined a BSCA-sponsored tour of sister cities Hualien and Yao in 2003. Elementary school children performed several traditional dances in honor of the visiting delegation.
When a delegation from Hualien visited Bellevue in 2013, a festival was held at City Hall. A pair of guardian lion statues, a gift from Hualien, were officially installed and "awakened" in a dedication ceremony. More than 85 musicians, dancers and other artists performed for an audience of hundreds.
When the Bellevue Sister Cities Association asked the City Council establish a sister city in Europe in 1989, the council directed the BSCA to search in the emerging democracies of Eastern Europe, where governments emerging from Soviet domination exhibited the greatest need for assistance.
Members of the Latvian community asked the council and the BSCA to establish a sister city relationship with Liepāja. The Bellevue-Liepāja sister city relationship was formalized in December 1992. The Liepāja affiliation was about two years in the planning, and included an exploratory trip to Latvia.
Kladno, Czech Republic
Kladno became a sister city to Bellevue in 1993, after about two years of planning that included an exploratory trip to the Czech Republic.