Four months after signing a sister city agreement with Eutin, West Germany, Lawrence will play host to a delegation from Japan to explore another such arrangement, according to Carol Shankel, chairman of the city's sister city advisory board.
The seven-member delegation representing the city of Hiratsuka will visit Lawrence Feb. 12-15.
"This is an exploratory visit," Shankel stressed. "This is not a signing. They are looking at Lawrence as a potential sister city."
Hiratsuka is about 60 kilometers southwest of Tokyo and has a population of 242,000. Tokai University is a private institution in the city with an enrollment of more than 25,000 students. Hiratsuka also is developing a high-tech research branch of Kanagawa University that will have about 6,000 students.
ACCORDING TO Shankel, the sister city advisory board decided to approach Hiratsuka in early 1987 at the encouragement of Ted Kuwana, director of the Center for Bioanalytical Research at Kansas University. Kuwana previously had visited Hiratsuka and met with several city officials.
The board was pleased with the size and location of Hiratsuka, and particularly impressed with Tokai University and the new Kanagawa research institution, Shankel said.
In April 1987, Shankel traveled to Hiratsuka to tour the city and explain Lawrence's interest in establishing a sister city relationship. "At that time, they didn't have any sister city organizations," Shankel said, and the Japanese officials said they weren't prepared to develop such a relationship.
"A couple of months ago, a representative from Hiratsuka called Robert Hitchner, the Kansas Department of Economic Development representative in Tokyo, and said they were interested in Lawrence," Shankel said.
"It took two and a half years for them to answer," she said. "It shows that they thought about it, and they must like what they've heard about us. They decided they would like to visit us and have a look. They liked the personal contacts they'd had here and were interested because we're a university town."
THE SISTER city advisory board is coordinating the February visit, Shankel said. The delegation will tour Lawrence, including KU and local schools and businesses. They also will attend the KU-Missouri University basketball game on Feb. 13.
The seven members of the Japanese delegation will include Hiratsuka's deputy mayor, vice chairman of the city council, vice chairman of the Hiratsuka sister city committee, a board of education member, chief secretary of city hall, a city hall employee, and an interpreter.
"We want to acquaint them with the fact that Lawrence has many national and international interests," Shankel said. "We're not just another small Midwestern town. We hope that when they realize that, they'll be interested in being a sister city."