Hiratsuka Sister Cities Program


Photo Credit: Jazmyne McNair. Lawrence delegates meeting the mayor of Hiratsuka.

As freshmen, in the cold, windowless room of Dr. Hyler’s Civics class, students hear about half a class time’s worth of stories from the Hiratsuka Sister Cities exchange. Many kids might have brushed it off, but the few who took her stories to heart would be doing themselves a huge favor in filling out an application for the exchange.

Every summer in the beginning of July, delegates from Lawrence go on a  trip to Hiratsuka, Japan for a little over a week, and near the end of July, the Hiratsuka delegates come over to Lawrence. To become a delegate, a person has to go fill out an application on the City of Lawrence website and mail it in to the Lawrence Sister Cities P.O. box. After sorting through the applications, the coordinators cherry pick the kids they think will benefit the most from the trip. Then these potential delegates will be interviewed and possibly accepted to attend the trip. Kids from middle school to high school are eligible to go on the Hiratsuka exchange. This also means they are eligible to make numerous new friends, memories and have more fun than they ever imagined.

At first, the cities’ bond seems more friendly than actually close, like two acquaintances saying “hi” in the hallway but never really getting to know each other. However, once there, it’s not hard to see that they treasure the time the Lawrence delegates spend in  their city. The Japanese hosts treat the guests with a high level of respect that the Lawrence delegates think is unmerited.

When the Japanese kids come to America, families from Lawrence get the chance to host them during their stay.

After my nine day trip to Japan, I waited eagerly for the Hiratsuka delegates to come over to Lawrence. The day they arrived, the Japanese delegates looked just as jetlagged as we did our first day, however they were also very social and cheerful. I had previously emailed the two girls that would be staying at my home, Lisa and Ryoka. The two couldn’t speak English very well so Google Translate became my best friend.

They always were surprised when they looked out of the window of the car and could see so much more space than they would in Japan.

Ryoka said, “In America, everything is huge.”

The Japanese delegates were polite and kind, and even though the language barrier restricted communication, they always made an effort to talk with us. The lack of communication became an entertaining part of both trips, with one Japanese student reminding the Americans to “please remember to me” and other humorous English blunders. After arm flailing and over exaggerated explaining, everyone eventually came to a common understanding.

After visiting the incredible country of Japan, showing the Japanese delegates America didn’t seem nearly as mind blowing, but the entire Lawrence group did their best to show the Japanese delegates a good time.

It seemed like it worked. When the two girls were leaving, I asked them if they would like to come back to Lawrence and  Lisa replied with a sarcastic imitation of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s “I’ll be back.”

“I don’t like Lawrence, I love Lawrence.” Lisa said.