A whirlwind tour of sites in Marysville and Union County by a group from Yorii, Japan, last week produced a sister-city agreement and the first steps toward an exchange program for students.
Marysville schools Superintendent Diane Mankins said she thoroughly enjoyed her time with the Japanese delegation.
"They talked with students and shared information about their schools in Yorii," she said. "We are planning to explore the idea of an exchange program as soon as next school year."
Mayor John Gore explained the town of Yorii is responsible for grades 1-9; education for students in grades 10-12 falls to the national government.
"Yorii does not have control over any of the high schools, so the only thing the mayor can guarantee is grades 1-9 involvement in any type of student exchange," Gore said.
"We had those conversations about setting up something he could put in his budget next year. Diane is in the process of developing some type of solid plan to bring a couple of kids here in August for a couple of weeks."
The delegation arrived Sunday evening, Dec. 1. Before departing Dec. 4, the visitors, led by Yorii Mayor Makoto Shimada, visited the Union County courthouse, Marysville's new city facilities, and several businesses, including the Marysville Honda plant, the Nestle Product Technology Center and the soybean processing center for KG Agri Products Inc.
They also attended a Marysville High School girls basketball game and a holiday concert put on by Marysville students, and enjoyed a horse-drawn carriage ride at the city's annual Christmas Walk.
"We kept them very busy the whole time they were here," Gore said.
In addition to Shimada, the delegation included Yorii Town Council Chairperson Yoshifumi Inayama, Town Council Vice Chairperson Rimi Sato, Chamber of Commerce Chairperson Takeshi Shibasaki, school board member Ryoko Arai, Boy Scout Sports Clubs Director Isamu Matsumoto, Gender-Equality Promotion Society President Tomoko Toyoda, Planning Section Executive Director Katsuji Sakai and Planning Section Manager Katsuo Negishi, along with an interpreter and travel guide.
Marysville's official greeting and the signing of the friendship agreement between the two cities took place Dec. 2, attended by Gore, members of Marysville City Council and the Marysville Board of Education, Union County Economic Development Director Eric Phillips and several members of the city's fire and police departments.
Shimada gave a speech in English after signing the sister-city agreement, saying the people of both societies will benefit from the relationship.
He also spoke to students after the concert Dec. 10 at Marysville High School in a speech that touched on bridging the gaps and creating friendships between students and communities.
"He told them relationships are not built in Washington and Tokyo; they're built in Yorii and Marysville," Gore said.
Overall, it was an outstanding visit, he said.
As the group got ready to leave Wednesday morning, Gore said Tomoko Toyoda, the Gender-Equality Promotion Society president, told him she was appreciative of the many women of authority she met to during the trip and noted that Japan is not quite that advanced yet.
"She told me when she came here she was coming on the trip to learn things. She now goes home with memories the rest of her life of the friendships she made here and how the people of the community made her feel so welcome," Gore said.