Celebrating An International Bond Between Two Cities


Commemorating sixty years of Iowa's famous 'Hog Lift' to Japan with a gift to Kofu's children.

Des Moines, Iowa – Friday, January 22, 2021  The Iowa Corn Growers' Association, Iowa Pork Producers, the Iowa Farm Bureau, Iowa Sister States, Des Moines' Sister Cities, and Mayor Cownie's office are teaming up for a holiday gift to our Japanese sister city. Symbolic gifts are shipping to the city of Kofu, Japan, to celebrate the 60th Anniversary of Iowa's goodwill 'Hog Lift' that strengthened cultural and regional ties between Japan and Iowa.

Gifts include:

  • 60 corn kernel hats and stuffed toy animal pigs will be gifted to the pediatric wing of a local Kofu children's hospital.
  • Copies of Lori Erickson's children's book "Sweet Corn and Sushi" that commemorates the cultural event will be distributed to key contacts throughout Kofu.
  • Lori Erickson's video reading her book will be distributed by local libraries, the State Historical Society, and the Farm Bureau. 
  • The State Historical Society is creating a web page with activities to help educate local youth on the historic event.

In 1959 devastating typhoons destroyed much of the livestock industry in Japan's Yamanashi Prefecture. Upon hearing this, Iowa native Master Sergeant Richard Thomas pitched the 'Hog Lift' idea while working in public relations with the U.S. Air Force in Tokyo.

Iowa farmers donated 36 lean meat hogs rounded up by the Iowa Corn Growers' Association, and the U.S. Air Force agreed to supply a plane to fly the hogs to Japan. The animals were shipped on a cargo plane fitted with special crates and attended to by representatives from the Iowa Corn Growers' Association.

As COVID-19 has paused travel and lessened the cultural exchanges between our communities, the team developed a plan to celebrate this iconic anniversary in Iowa history and bring the Des Moines and Kofu communities together during a difficult time.

Hog Lift Facts

  • In 1960, 36 hogs donated by Iowa farmers were flown from Iowa to Japan.
  • Today, most of the pork raised in Japan has a genetic connection to Iowa as a result of the 1960 hog lift.
  • A children's book titled "Sweet Corn and Sushi" by Iowa author Lori Erickson was written to commemorate the event. 
  • This led to the 1960 establishment of the Grains Council and Japan's eventual position as the leading overseas consumer of U.S. feed grains.

Greater Des Moines Sister Cities Commission
Roger Nowadzky, Chairperson
(515) 953-8627

About Kofu, Japan
Kofu and Des Moines have been sister cities since August 16, 1958. Kofu, the capital of Yamanashi Prefecture, is nestled in beautiful mountains with majestic Mt. Fuji to the south. Kofu is a two-hour train ride from Tokyo.

About the Greater Des Moines Sister Cities Commission
The mission of the Sister Cities Commission is to enhance the greater Des Moines metropolitan area's global profile by bridging communities and opening doors with international sister cities for mutual benefit in culture, education, technology, commerce, and economic development. Learn more about Des Moines' Sister Cities at DSM.city/sistercities

About the City of Des Moines
The City of Des Moines: Iowa’s capital city and local government servicing more than 217,000 residents, 52 neighborhoods, over 4,000 acres of parkland and 81 miles of trails. The City of Des Moines stands to be a financially strong city with exceptional city services, fostering an involved community in a customer friendly atmosphere. Visit DSM.cityFacebook and Twitter for more information.