East met West this morning at Sixth and Massachusetts as 15 delegates from Hiratsuka, Japan, were officially welcomed to Lawrence.
A series of meetings at city hall this morning, including a session with Gov. Mike Hayden, marked the start of a full first day for the visitors from Hiratsuka, Lawrence's second sister city.
Mayor Shirley Martin-Smith, surrounded by Lawrence city commissioners, about 50 city employees and a group of onlookers greeted Hiratsuka Mayor Kyoichi Ishikawa and 14 other Japanese at the entrance to city hall.
"We're very, very pleased to have you here at city hall," Martin-Smith told the visitors. "We're honored by your delegation's presence and by the strength you'll bring to our sister city relationship."
COMMISSIONERS and their guests then retreated to a "get-acquainted" session on the fourth floor of city hall. Later in the morning, they gathered in the commission chambers for a "rededication" of signing of the sister city agreement between Lawrence and Hiratsuka, which took place Sept. 21 in Hiratsuka.
The city commission chambers were bedecked with the Japanese "Rising Sun" and U.S. flags for the morning events. During the ceremonies, Ishikawa presented Martin-Smith with a painting by reknowned Japanese artist Kogin Kudo. Lawrence city commissioners, in turn, presented the Japanese with picture books of Kansas landscapes.
Ishikawa, noting that the relationship between the two cities to this point largely has been ceremonial, said now is the time for the relationship to flourish.
"THIS IS the starting point of our real relationship," Ishikawa said through a translator. "Now we are starting our mutual understanding."
He called for the two cities to live up to their agreement to participate in cultural, educational, economic and youth exchanges.
Ted Kuwana, president of Friends of Hiratsuka, said during the ceremonies that KU and Kanagawa University, which is located in Hiratsuka, already have begun laying groundwork for a student exchange.
The Hiratsuka delegation will remain in Lawrence for only a short stay, with their departure scheduled for Wednesday morning. But they'll be kept busy while they're here. After this morning's ceremonies, the group was headed to Kansas University and then on an afternoon tour of Lawrence.
On Tuesday morning, they'll visit local schools and businesses before adjourning for some leisure activities.