About 125 people Sunday night turned out at the Eldridge Hotel to welcome a delegation of visitors from Lawrence's sister city of Hiratsuka, Japan.
"Thank you for traveling this great distance to be with us," Lawrence Mayor Bob Walters told the 19 members of the delegation. "I do hope that your stay with us will be a very enjoyable experience."
"I think Americans have a lot to learn from the Japanese," said U.S. Rep. Jim Slattery, D-Kan., in addressing the group.
The sister-city relationship was formally established in September 1990, and the present delegation is the sixth group from Hiratsuka to visit Lawrence.
AMONG THE present delegation, which arrived here Sunday, are four members of the Hiratsuka City Assembly, a junior high school principal, the secretary general of the Hiratsuka Council of Trade Unions, the director of the Hiratsuka Sightseeing Assn. and the chairman of Hiratsuka Labor Unions.
Teruhisa Tsuchiya, member of the Hiratsuka City Assembly, noted that the sister-city relationship got off to "stormy" start: When the first Lawrence delegation went to Hiratsuka, a heavy rainstorm prevented the visitors from appreciating a gorgeous view from a Hiratsuka restaurant.
"After the rain, we have a huge rainbow between the two cities," Tsuchiya said through a translator.
NORIKAZU KAWAHARA, leader of the delegation and vice president of the Hiratsuka Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said he hopes some cooperative university research can be developed in the area of biotechnology.
But more important than business or research, Kawahara said, is the improved understanding between U.S. and Japanese citizens that develops through the sister-city relationship.
Hiroshi Akiyama, a Hiratsuka school superintendent, said Japan could learn some things from the United States, especially in the area of education.
"THE JAPANESE tend to be group-oriented, but I think it's about time we started valuing individuality," Akiyama said through a translator. He said there needs to be less rote memorization of information in Japanese high schools and a greater emphasis on developing imagination and creativity.
This morning, the delegation toured city hall and West Junior High School. This evening, the Japanese visitors will have dinner in the homes of some Lawrence families. The delegation will leave Tuesday.