Officials from Lawrence and Hiratsuka, Japan, on Tuesday night toasted the end of a successful three-day visit here by the Japanese and the beginning of a long-lasting sister city relationship.
The Helen Foresman Spencer Museum of Art was the setting for the official farewell to the 15 visiting delegates from Hiratsuka, a Japanese city that is about 40 miles southwest of Tokyo.
"The people here with this delegation are no longer just delegates," Lawrence Mayor Shirley Martin-Smith told a reception gathering of about 150. "They are our friends."
Jim Schwartzburg, a member of Lawrence's Sister Cities Advisory Board and master of ceremonies for the farewell reception, said it's time to nourish the relationship.
"It now is up to the citizens of Lawrence and the citizens of Hiratsuka to build upon the foundations that have been laid," he said.
HIRATSUKA Mayor Kyoichi Ishikawa, who thanked everyone who played a part in hosting the Japanese, said he is committed to working toward a fruitful relationship between the two cities.
During his farewell remarks, he discussed two ideas he hopes to arrange promptly: another visit to Lawrence by Hiratsuka junior high and high school students and the loaning of art works from the Spencer museum to Hiratsuka for the 1991 opening of a new art museum there.
Carol Shankel, who chairs the Sister Cities Advisory Board and who was responsible for the initial contact with Hiratsuka, said she was confident that economic exchanges also would result from the sister city relationship.
"Part of the sister city agreement, in addition to cultural and youth exchanges, calls for economic exchanges," Shankel explained.
GARY TOEBBEN, Lawrence Chamber of Commerce president, helped coordinate the visit by the Japanese. He said the prospects are good for economic exchanges coming out of the Hiratsuka-Lawrence relationship.
Toebben said he now is in a position to inform the major businesses in Hiratsuka that if they are interested in expanding their business to the United States, Lawrence should be on their list for consideration. The Lawrence-Hiratsuka ties, he said, also will be a calling card for local firms approaching businesses throughout Japan.
"In the economic development business, personal recommendations and endorsements are important all over the world, especially in Japan," Toebben said. "I think that if someone were to call the mayor of Hiratsuka and asked him to rate Lawrence, he'd give us a 10 on a scale of 10."
MARTIN-SMITH said that while the city will promote all of the various exchanges with both of Lawrence's sister cities, Hiratsuka and Eutin, Germany, the primary responsiblity will rest with local sister city organizations.
"I expect that the Sister Cities Advisory Board will continue meeting with the Friends of Eutin and the Friends of Hiratsuka," Martin-Smith said. "And I would see those groups as initiating further exchanges. They already have a great deal of organization, and I would see the `friends' groups as taking the lead."