A local delegation is winding down its visit to Lawrence's newest sister city, Hiratsuka, Japan, with officials from both cities pledging to strengthen ties.
"Everywhere we go, the people here are wanting to know when more people from Lawrence are going to come to visit them," Lawrence Mayor Shirley Martin-Smith said in a telephone interview this morning from Japan.
Martin-Smith leads a 14-member delegation from Lawrence that traveled to the Orient to participate in ceremonies officially marking the beginning of a sister city relationship between Lawrence and Hiratsuka.
A JAM-PACKED agenda kept the delegation busy Saturday and was highlighted by visits to an elementary school students attend school on Saturdays until noon a city museum, downtown Hiratsuka and lunch with the Hiratsuka Chamber of Commerce board of directors.
At most every stop, future exchanges between the two cities was a topic of conversation. For example, during the luncheon with the chamber executives, the discussion centered on the cities' mutual desire to explore business ventures. During the trip to the city museum, the delegation was reunited with a group of Japanese high school students who visited Lawrence in September. Those students expressed their hope that they could return to Lawrence.
On Saturday evening, various service clubs from Hiratsuka, including Rotary, Lions, Soroptomists and the Jaycees, hosted a dinner for the delegation. Presidents of each group discussed ways in which they could sponsor student exchanges.
Sunday brought the delegates a day trip to Mount Fuji, which is a four-hour bus ride from Hiratsuka. When the group arrived back in the city, Hiratsuka Mayor Kyoichi Ishikawa hosted a dinner for the visitors.
"THE MAYOR is very, very intent on seeing this through as a lasting relationship," Martin-Smith said. Ishikawa will lead a delegation to Lawrence in late October.
Each step of the way, Martin-Smith said, the Japanese have hosted their Lawrence guests in style.
"Everywhere we went, the citizens were there greeting us in crowds. It was just unbelievable. It's been more than we could ever describe," she said.
Today, the delegation is in Tokyo for a sight-seeing trip. On Tuesday, the final day of the trip to Japan, the Lawrence contingent will be guests at a reception of Kansas University alumni in Kyobashi.