Gateshead: over the water from Newcastle, home to the largest shopping centre in the EU; one of Britain’s largest sculptures, the Angel of the North and Big Brother narrator Marcus Bentley.

Less well know is its links with the big Japanese city of Komatsu. Gateshead has been twinned with Komatsu since 1991 but first made links in 1987 when the Japanese company of the same name opened a factory in Birtley.

Located on Honshu, the central island of Japan, some 303km north west of Tokyo, Komatsu is located between the East Sea and the Hakusan Mountains and stands at the foot of a plain which is characterised by pine forests and rice and vegetable fields (the name ‘Komatsu’ means ‘little pine’).

Like much of Japan there is a great deal of high-tech industry including the Awazu Plant of the Komatsu Company – a major employer of the area’s 110,000 population. Our own links to Komatsu stretch back to the late 1970s when we first became an authorised importer and distributor of Komatsu forklifts.

Our Washington branch is also located just down the road from the Birtley factory with the A1M and the A19 just a stone’s throw from the Armstrong Industrial Estate.

All the major industrial areas within Tyne & Wear, Co Durham, Northumberland and Teesside are within a 45 mile radius, perhaps one of the reasons why our Washington Branch has grown a customer base in excess of 300 customers and maintains over 500 pieces of materials handling equipment.